Mobile classrooms for Sutton Primary School

Cambridgeshire County Council has submitted a planning application* to locate a seven-bay mobile classroom at Sutton C of E Primary School until 31 August 2021.

The application is the result of the expected ‘bulge’ in pupil numbers over the coming years. The school can accommodate 330 children. There are currently 317 pupils on the school roll, in eleven classes, but in September this year this will rise to 345 pupils in 13 classes, and according to NHS data the school will not be below its maximum capacity for another seven years.

The planned classroom block is proposed to be sited on the land behind the school that backs on to 30-34 Bellairs, where the play tyres are.

*On the Documents tab, click on View associated documents to see the various pieces of paperwork that form the application.  You can then click on each item individually.  If your computer is set up to block pop-ups, you may find you have to tell your computer to allow pop-ups for this site in order to read the individual documents.

Annual council meeting

East Cambridgeshire District Council held its annual council meeting tonight, to – among other things – elect its Chairman (Cllr Tony Cornell from Soham) and its committees.

There are only three main committees now (apart from Planning and Licensing), and I’ve been appointed to two of them – Corporate Governance and Finance, and Regulatory and Support Services.

Of specific relevance to Sutton:

  1. The Sutton by-election result was reported, and I was welcomed to the council.
  2. In a report on its corporate priorities, the council claimed that installation of superfast broadband in East Cambridgeshire was complete and would be live by next month.  I reminded the council that St Andrew’s Close and Stirling Way were still waiting for a date for Cabinet 9.  (Not, in fact, that superfast broadband is the direct responsibility of the district council anyway – it’s a county council project with a private sector contractor).
  3. Sutton’s other councillor Philip Read was given leave of absence by the council while he undergoes medical treatment.  Normally if a councillor goes six months without attending a meeting he or she is disqualified, but the council can extend this if the absence is due to some good reason and approved by the council.  Cllr Read’s absence has been extended to the end of 2014, with the option to renew this at the council meeting on 27 November.  I’m sure we all wish Cllr Read well for his medical treatment and a swift return to robust health.

I did point out that Sutton currently has two district councillors, so will not be left without representation while Cllr Read is absent.  However, the council has asked the local government boundary commission to consider cutting the number of councillors on East Cambs council, and moving to single-councillor wards for rural areas like Sutton.  If a similar leave of absence were to be granted in that situation, Sutton could be left completely unrepresented for almost a year.  It’s just one of several reasons why I disagree with the council administration’s view on this.

Nellie’s gives more money to good causes

Cup of coffee

There were queues at the door at Nellie’s this morning, as once again the superb community café team presented cheques to two local charities the café has been sponsoring for the last six months.  £200 went to the Sutton games group to buy new games; and a staggering £1,025 to Brainwave which is doing amazing work for local children with additional needs.

The next two charities which the café will be supporting in the months ahead are Ehlers-Danlos Support UK, a group supporting people living with this condition; and Magpas the emergency medical charity.

Great to see Nellie’s going from strength to strength and so many good causes benefiting.

Group meeting

Yesterday I attended my first meeting of my political group as a councillor.  As it was the group’s AGM, we elected our leader and deputy leader, treasurer and secretary.  I’ve been made group press officer for the year.  We also agreed our nominations to fill up our group’s places on the council’s committees: I’m going to be nominated for two of the council’s three committees, so will certainly have my work cut out.

Sister Act

Congratulations to Sutton Feast Committee for another wonderful evening’s entertainment – a showing of Sister Act in St Andrew’s Church, with hot dogs, popcorn, wine, ice cream, and our very own live dancing nun!

Don’t forget the Feast Committee is always looking out for residents’ ideas for more community events in the village. And you can follow Sutton Feast on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/suttonfeast

Sutton Deli@65

Deli opening small

Congratulations to the Petrous on the first day of Sutton’s brand new delicatessen and café, Sutton Deli@65! The store was buzzing at lunchtime today, with plenty of local residents stopping to drink coffee or tea, chat with friends and neighbours, and browse the shelves and the choice of cold meats, cheeses and baked goods. It’s amazing what they already have in stock – including a wide range of gluten-free foods – with more to follow.  My partner bought me an ‘unbirthday present’ of a caterer’s blowtorch – is this wise?

Forthcoming street works

If you haven’t come across it before, it’s worth checking in at http://cambridgeshire.roadworks.org/ every now and then to see what street works are about to be undertaken locally by the various agencies. You can choose a variety of different views, including the option of Today, Next two weeks, or Next 12 months, and you can zoom in to see the Sutton map in some detail.

For example, it’s good to see that the broken section of pavement on the corner at the top of The Orchards is to be mended, and the county council will be resetting a length of kerb on the footpath near the school. Meanwhile, the National Grid will be connecting gas supplies to various properties in Mepal Road, Sutton Court and Lawn Lane.

Voting by post

It seems only a matter of days since the last time voters in Sutton went to the polls – doesn’t time fly? – but on Thursday 22 May we’ll be doing it again, this time for the elections to the European Parliament.

It’s not always possible to get to the polling station on the day, for any number of reasons, which is where a permanent postal vote really comes in handy.  I’ve had one for years, because as you can imagine I’m usually busy on polling day.  In olden times you used to have to have a doctor’s note or similar before you could vote by post, but these days everyone is entitled to a postal vote – you don’t need to give a reason.

If you want a postal vote for the elections on 22 May, you’ll need to move fast – the deadline for East Cambs District Council to receive applications is 5pm this Wednesday, 7 May.  You can download a form from the council’s website.

And, as an aside, it’s just occurred to me that until ten days ago, the European elections were the only ones in my life in which I ever voted for a winning candidate and my vote actually counted for anything.  That’s our cock-eyed voting system for you …

Planning application: anaerobic digester

Pretoria Energy Ltd, run by Richard Lee, has submitted a planning application for an anaerobic digester and maize clamps on land east of Greys Farm in Iretons Way, Chatteris, about 500 metres from Mepal Outdoor Centre.  The site straddles Fenland and East Cambridgeshire District Councils so the application has been submitted to both.

A previous application last year was rejected by Fenland District Council, on grounds which the new application is said to address.

However, a number of consultees – in particular surrounding parish councils – have expressed their concerns at the likely effect of the facility on surrounding roads, including the stretch of the A142 between Sutton and Chatteris.  Mud on the roads has often made conditions on this piece of road quite hazardous, and it is feared that muddy deposits from vehicles associated with the anaerobic digester could make matters worse.

If the application is to be approved, a key issue will be improving the unmade road that links the single track road from Sutton Gault to Chatteris to the A142, and ensuring that this, rather than our local roads and the A142, is used both by digester traffic and by lorries associated with Lee’s packaging plant.  The last thing we need is more heavy traffic through the village and the Gault, and indeed East Cambridgeshire District Council should be using every opportunity to reduce it.

Details of the application are on the planning pages of the East Cambridgeshire District Council website.

Signing in

Over the last few days since the by-election here in Sutton, I’ve been taking the first steps in my new role as district councillor for the village.

As soon as the result was declared at the election count, I signed the declaration of acceptance of office – a legal requirement before a successful candidate can act as a councillor.  I was also given a thick file of information, a plastic credit card-type fob to open the council car park barrier and the internal doors at the council offices, a lanyard, and a council car park number and wallet to display it in.  It also included a form which I had to sign and return to the council’s Democratic Services staff with the contact details I’m willing to have published on the council’s website, my car registration number so they know I’m a legitimate user of the council car park, and my bank details so that I can be paid my councillor allowance of around £4,000 a year.

On Friday this week I had an introductory meeting with the council Chief Executive.  I also met the council’s IT staff about sorting out access to the information held on the council’s internal computer networks; I’ll need to be equipped with the technology to do this from home.  I’ve also been offered a computer and printer and Blackberry, but as I already have my own equipment I won’t need to take this up. Unfortunately I wasn’t offered a diagram and a ball of string to help me find my way around the maze that is the council offices in Nutholt Lane, which would probably have been even more useful.

I’ve asked whether there’s a fund to cover the cost of hiring a local room for a regular councillor’s surgery; it wasn’t mentioned in the information file, and I’m waiting to hear back from the council about that.  As soon as I’ve got a surgery venue and dates and times set up, I’ll make sure these are advertised.

Another form to fill in is my declaration of financial interests, including my employment, any sponsorship given to my election, any land I own (I don’t, other than my share of the house I live in), organisations to which I belong which aim to influence public opinion, and a number of other questions. This form, which I’ve provided to the council’s Monitoring Officer, is a matter of public record and will be published on the council’s website.

I’ve also begun the process of registering with the Information Commissioner – something which I need to do as I’ll be holding people’s personal data, for example in helping residents with queries and problems with housing or planning or any of the other issues I’m asked to assist with.

My first full council meeting will be on 15 May, at which councillors will be appointed to the new, reduced in number, council committees. There is also a new system of ‘champions’ for particular areas of the council’s activities, and some councillors will be appointed to these.