Sutton station meeting

Like many other residents of Sutton, I’m relieved to have my broadband back up and running.  That was some serious piece of network outage, wasn’t it?

But the restoration of normal service means I’m able to report on the excellent meeting last night for those interested in the project being spearheaded by local resident Brian Watson to ‘tidy up’ the remnants of Sutton’s railway station at the end of Station Road next to Bow Cottages.

There was a good turnout of people of a range of ages and length of time in the village, all keen to support this project with their time, ideas and different skills. This isn’t going to be a matter of running trains again – but of carrying out some kind of clearance of the overgrowth covering the platforms, and perhaps putting some seating in and an information plaque.

Several people also came up with some excellent ideas about a web-based archive, and also a physical archive somewhere which people could visit and see.  This sounds like just the kind of community-based project that shows why Sutton is such a great place to live.

Fen floods and local history

A thoroughly enjoyable evening at the Pavilion in Sutton tonight, listening to local historian Mike Petty telling the story of the 1947 floods in the Isle of Ely.  Mike’s enthralling talk was accompanied by some captivating photographs of the event and its aftermath, and really brought this period in our area’s history to life.

The talk was very well attended, and was followed by brief advertisements for next Tuesday’s meeting about Brian Watson’s Sutton Station project, for next Thursday’s Conservation Society meeting on the Sutton Silver brooch project (see my earlier posting here), and an update from Mark Nokkert on the Ouse Washes project (again, see my earlier posting here).

And well done to Team Jacum for the refreshments too, which were not only delicious but also encouraged people to stay on and chat, which is how all the best ideas start …

It’s been wonderful to see Brian’s station project, and the launch of the Sutton Memory Lane group on Facebook (which now has over 200 members!), turning into a real enthusiasm for exploring Sutton’s history and heritage. Several people took the opportunity at the meeting to sign up to express their interest in developing a local history group and offer their time and skills.

Smaller council for East Cambridgeshire?

Councillors on East Cambridgeshire District Council are being asked whether they want to reduce the number of councillors from 39 down to 27.  A meeting of the Council this coming Tuesday will consider a report to this effect.

The Council doesn’t have the power to change its own numbers: that rests with the Local Government Boundary Commission. Having previously (in 2011) rejected proposals by the Council to reduce the number of councillors by six, the Commission has now agreed to consider this fresh request from the Council.  (The Commission could, of course, turn down the request again).

Alongside reducing the number of councillors, the Council leadership wants the Commission to review East Cambridgeshire’s ward boundaries.  In principle, it appears that the Council wants to move to single-councillor wards for rural areas. In Sutton’s case this could mean losing a district councillor – we currently have two – or possibly sharing two councillors across a much wider area.  If agreed, the review would take place in 2015 or 2016, after next year’s elections.

In these times, when so many people are – rightly or wrongly – so cynical about all who seek or hold elected office, a reduction in councillor numbers by nearly one-third might well be applauded, even if only as a promising start. But, done properly, the role of a local councillor is a busy one, including not only council  meetings, but representing the council at various bodies and functions, liaising with the parish council, attending local events, communicating with local organisations, holding surgeries for local residents, issuing regular newsletters telling people what’s going on. It’s a lot to do, especially if you’re of working age and have a day job to do as well.

Should we welcome a reduction in the number of our councillors?  Or should we be worried at the prospect of fewer councillors to hold council officials to account and fulfil a demanding role effectively?

Further legal action over guided bus?

800px-Guided_bus_opening_day2

Fresh legal action by Cambridgeshire County Council against contractor BAM Nuttall could engulf its guided bus project once again, following the discovery of serious faults in the guided bus track which could cost £20 million to repair.

The news comes less than eight months after the county council settled its earlier dispute with BAM Nuttall over the guided bus, at a cost of £33 million to Cambridgeshire taxpayers.

This scheme has eaten up massive amounts of taxpayers’ money and demonstrated the inability of the county council to manage large projects like this.  The county council must now ensure that the guided busway is safe, but certainly shouldn’t throw any more public money at this scheme in the process.

Meanwhile, Cambridgeshire residents have every right to be alarmed about any future complex large scale infrastructure projects on the county council’s to-do list, until we can be confident this sort of disaster won’t happen again.

Photo by Bob Castle (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Quiz night

Congratulations to Team Jacum on organising an excellent Quiz Night in the Pavilion in Sutton.  My views are in no way coloured by the fact that our team achieved joint third place and won tickets to the greyhound racing at Peterborough, or the fact that one of my tickets was successful in the draw and I am now the proud owner of a piece of Cambridge contemporary art.  A great evening all round, well attended and one of the typical community events that make Sutton the wonderful village it is.

How local is local, exactly?

Today, it seems, politicians of all colours and flavours woke up to the forthcoming by-election here in Sutton.  A small Labour team was spotted heading up and down the High Street mid-morning, delivering leaflets through selected doors (though, sadly, not mine).  A UKIP leaflet was in evidence.  And the Conservative agent was seen outside the Conservative Club with a car boot-full of literature.

“I live locally,” says the UKIP candidate in his election address.  Well, maybe he’s local to someone – but only if, like him, you happen to live at 1 Oak Farm Drive, Little Downham, the address he helpfully adds in small print at the bottom of his leaflet.  Putting the word ‘local’ in your leaflet eight times doesn’t really change the fact that you live nine and a half miles away from Sutton, though.

“Local resident Jane Frances is the local choice for the Sutton by election,” the Labour candidate helpfully tells us in her leaflet.  That would be ‘local’ as in 15 Second Drove, Little Downham, then?  Almost 11 miles away, according to the AA route planner: which, far from being ‘the local choice’, in fact makes her the candidate living the furthest away from our village.  To underline the point, Jane’s leaflet shows a photograph of her standing locally.  Well, locally, that is, to her campaign last autumn to be elected in Ely East – is that the top of the Forehill in Ely carefully cropped behind her?

I haven’t yet seen a copy of the Conservative leaflet.  Does Mr Hitchin of 7 Chelmer Way, Ely claim to be ‘local’ too?  Does anyone have a copy?  How local is ‘local’?  And how acceptable is claiming to be local in order to be elected when, in fact, you’re not?

Knocking on doors

Another evening knocking on local residents’ doors here in the village, as the by-election campaigning gets under way, Some beautiful gardens in The Row, and some delightful dogs too! Many people aware of the work that Mark Inskip and I have been doing on trying to address the problem of heavy vehicles along the High Street; and keen to have a local representative who lives locally and understands the concerns of our village.

Sutton Station site visit

Not the warmest of evenings this month to be standing out in the cold on the edge of a field! But great to be part of a really interesting site visit to the location of the old Sutton railway station, behind Whizzle at the bottom of Station Road. The ivy has grown apace, but you can see the remains of the station platforms on both sides of the path leading out towards Haddenham, and possibly the base of the old signal box. The project that’s being put together to clear and restore the remains of this piece of Sutton’s heritage promises to be really exciting – a huge well done and thank you to Brian Watson for putting it all together.

Good news on mobile phone chargers

Phone drawer small

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably got a drawer full of old mobile phone chargers that came with phones you’ve long since ceased to use, none of which work with other phones.

So I was pleased to hear that soon we’ll be able to use the same mobile phone charger for any phone (even Apple!) anywhere in Europe. Not only is this more convenient – and will leave more room in my house! – but it will save 51,000 tons of electronics being dumped every year.

This is all thanks to a vote in the European Parliament by our region’s Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff and his colleagues. The new rules will mean all manufacturers selling electronics in the EU will be required to make them compatible with a universal charger.

Currently most phones use the same micro USB charger, following a voluntary agreement between the EU and 14 mobile phone manufacturers in 2011 which put pressure on them to introduce a common charger. However, several manufacturers including Apple did not sign the agreement.

Andrew Duff said: “This is a great victory for common sense.  Being part of Europe, the world’s biggest market for mobile phones, means we can put pressure on manufacturers to put an end to cable chaos. We’ve made a lot of progress towards a universal charger in recent years but this will mean that finally every electronic device will have to be compatible.”

Great stuff!