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 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.

Cambridgeshire schools funding petition presented

Laws and Huppert school funding petition small

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert yesterday presented schools minister David Laws with a petition of around 2,000 signatures urging the Government to implement proposals to give Cambridgeshire an extra £20 million for schools.

As I reported over a year ago, for too long Cambridgeshire schools have been starved of cash, receiving £600 less per pupil than the national average and putting us at the bottom of the national funding league table.

Today Julian joined forces with other MPs to secure a debate in parliament about this funding unfairness and the Government’s proposals to address it.  He said

“Finally we have the chance to put that right; but I also want to make sure that this is only the beginning of sustained funding year-on-year to repair our school buildings and upgrade our classrooms to provide the learning environment our children deserve.”

The consultation on the proposals is due to close at the end of this week.  You can still sign the petition here.


Election result

The result of the district council by-election on Thursday 24 April was as follows:

  • Lorna Dupré (Lib Dem) 523
  • Neil Hitchin (Con) 280
  • Daniel Divine (UKIP) 162
  • Jane Frances (Lab) 63

I’ve therefore been elected as district councillor for Sutton until May 2015.  I’m very grateful for, and honoured by, the support I’ve received in this election, and will do my utmost to serve Sutton and its residents to the best of my ability.

I’ve signed my declaration of acceptance of office, and received an induction folder the size of a breeze block to serve as some light reading for the weekend.  I’ll be publicising details of councillor surgeries and other information as soon as possible.

Polling station disabled access

Glebe disabled access small

Just the day before today’s polling day we heard that the decision had been made not to allow voters to drive up the access path to The Glebe for today’s elections.  Instead, local residents would have to park in the High Street and make their way to The Glebe on foot.

We were told that people with disabilities or limited mobility who could not walk that distance would need to ring a mobile number on arrival at the entrance to the access path, and that the poll clerks would bring a ballot paper and ballot box out on to the street for them.

This clearly wasn’t satisfactory, so in discussion with the council, the local Lib Dem team liaised with mobility aids provider Bartrams, who have made a wheelchair available to electors who need it to get from the entrance on the High Street to the polling station.

We will be in communication with the council after today’s election to ask them to reinstate the use of The Pavilion as a polling station, and to review their arrangements for access for voters with disabilities and limited mobility both on this occasion and more generally.

Sutton silver update

Another excellent meeting in the Pavilion last night, hosted by Sutton Conservation Society – this time about the plans for Ely Museum to host the Silver disc brooch of Aedwen in summer next year. The brooch, discovered in Sutton during ploughing in 1694, is held in the British Museum in London.

Local resident Liz Hawkins introduced the meeting, and the curator and staff of Ely Museum were on hand to talk about the current plans for the visit of the brooch. Unfortunately the brooch won’t be able to come to Sutton – it will have to stay in the museum in Ely for security reasons – but the staff are keen for village residents of all ages to be involved and to come up with ideas for projects, events and activities to take place alongside the visit.

The brooch will be in Ely for several months starting in July 2015.

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.