It is the practice of Bury St Edmunds Town Council to archive all of its non-current material after a period of one year. Requests for archived material can be made as shown under the Freedom of Information section in this website.
Monthly topic - October - Moreton Hall ward
Very warm autumnal greetings from Councillors Clive Springett & Patsy Warby from Moreton Hall ward.
Cllr Springett writes:-
With the dark nights fast approaching I wanted to send out a plea to cyclists; please ensure you wear bright and safe clothing, a suitable helmet, and don't forget those bright lights! I am also concerned about the number of cyclists who are not using the cycle lanes around the area. The council fought hard to get these and by using them, you are taking the safest option of getting around by cycle. I have witnessed at least 2 close incidents recently where cyclists have cut across traffic lanes forcing the cars to break suddenly. Please use the cycle lanes whenever possible.
It is also worth mentioning that as the weather deteriorates, the car becomes the desired method of transport for the school run! Please can you ensure that you park safely and do not block the school entrances of Sebert Wood and Abbots Green?
I have also noticed and reported to the developers a number of trees which were planted but have failed to grow and subsequently died around Juniper and Hazel Roads. Should anyone wish to report to me, any others I have missed please contact me via the details on the "Your Councillors" page of this website.
A number of successful events have been held at Rougham Airfield recently, such as the Air Show in August and the well publicised (and criticised) Music event in September. I must admit, living so close to the airfield, I had major reservations about this event which passed without any major issues to our knowledge. The airfield is a great asset to the community and town alike and we are really lucky there are a group of people who are keen to preserve this piece of our history!
Cllr Patsy Warby writes:-
The Youth Club on the estate continues to go from strength to strength. We have a dedicated team of Directors, and helpers who have managed to grow the attendance figures to over 50 per session! The Committee are now looking at options of providing additional nights or splitting the age groups to make the sessions more fun. The club is currently open on Tuesday nights from 18:30 to 20:30 for Children aged 9-13. Why not pop along and see what they have to offer for the children, and if there are any parents who are able to spare a night a month to help out, they would be most welcome!
Monthly topic - September 2010 - The Corn Exchange
Before the days of lorries, telephone and computers, Bury St Edmunds was the market centre of the large agricultural area of the West Suffolk region. With the demise of the cloth trade in East Anglia due to the rise of lighter continental materials and the end of the yarn spinning business supplying the worsted weaving in Norwich, the only commercial activity in the area was agriculture. The basic unit of power at that time was the horse and so agriculture required a large labour force. In latter years, stimulated by the needs of two world wars, tractors were invented, which over the years have improved beyond all recognition, so that nowadays one man and a tractor can do that which, years ago, took 60 men and 120 horses. Agricultural business practice too, has been completely transformed. Now the buying and selling of requirements and produce can be done on the telephone and computer from the farm office and deals are struck with remote merchants at the other end of the telephone wire. Life was not always thus. Before the ‘electronic' age the only way a farmer could sell his produce was to bring it to market, meet the merchants and buyers and strike a deal hand to hand.
The importance of Bury as a market centre for the whole region cannot be over emphasised enough. Bury market acted as the sustaining hub for the whole area. Buyers and dealers came to Bury market from all over England: meat traders, millers and maltsters from London and the Midlands, flower and fruit and vegetable merchants from Covent Garden. There would be other farmers seeking to buy young animals to raise and fatten. Producers would bring in their eggs and poultry to sell. These large gatherings of farmers and their ladies attracted all kinds of other stall holders who established what we now know as the provision market.
The business of buying and selling grain became so important that it was decided that a special place should be built to house the Corn market and so in 1836 a ‘Corn Exchange' was built. This building was later used for the fire engine. It then became the library and is now occupied by Laura Ashley, Harriet's tea room and the Halifax Building Society. In 1861 it was deemed to be too small and so the building that we know now as the Corn Exchange, was commissioned. It was to be bigger and grander and was to reflect the importance of the business to the town. In 1898, Ellis and Woodwood architects, of Fenchurch Street, London, together with the builder, Messers Jackman of Bury St Edmunds, delivered a veritable temple to the success of Agriculture. A building grand in its concept, suitable for the importance of the trade that it housed[s1] , at a cost of £7000. Of the 30 odd corn exchanges in the country, Bury ranked amongst the top four.
The Corn Exchange operated on Wednesdays. The buyers' desks were brought in, from where they had been stored in the cattle market and set up in rows in the Exchange. Each desk had a hinged lid and was big enough for the buyer's clerk to sit with his ledgers, on a high stool. The desks were of a sufficient height that the buyer could rest his elbow on it as he stood beside. There he would preside all morning. Usually the business was concluded by lunch time, when everyone retired to either the Suffolk or Everard's Hotels to meet their wives and enjoy lunch. Some of the regular buyers had their names on their desks. During the morning, farmers would come in with samples of their grain to sell. The samples were in little bags of about 1lb weight each. It was accepted that they were a true and representative sample of the whole parcel and a deal would be cancelled if they were not. The farmer would show his samples to his chosen buyer. There would be much discussion about it as they both studied a handful, the one finding faults and the other pointing out the virtues. The smell was very important..was it musty or mouldy? The look.. was it clean and bright, of good colour? How dry was it? Was it of good even quality? Was it full of weed seed and bits of straw? How many coombs were there? (A coomb was a sack of a standard size, for in those times, all corn was handled in coombs. Because a coomb was a measure of quantity, not weight, a coomb of different grains held different weights. A coomb of barley weighed 16 stones and a coomb of wheat 18 stones.) The use of coomb sacks continued until the 1960s when a change was made to handling grain in bulk. When all had been considered, the merchant may or may not make an offer. If he made an offer, the farmer would immediately reject it as being totally unrealistic for grain of such quality and so a haggle would begin between the two of them until agreement was reached. If no offer was made, the farmer would move on and try someone else.
As well as corn merchants there were other representatives present: seed merchants, fertilizer merchants, plough shear sellers, veterinary products and purveyors of many other things that the farmer might need for the conduct of his business. You could buy rat poison and traps and arsenic for poisoning moles and many other chemicals that would be highly illegal nowadays. It was also a great social occasion, as most of the farmers knew each other and so once their business was done they could find time for a little social badinage. I remember going with my Uncle, carrying his sample bags and watching with some astonishment the whole event.
The desks would be cleared away, back to store in the cattle market on Thursday, after the business of that place was done. The Corn Exchange thus stood empty until the next week.
It was not long before other uses were found for it. There used to be roller skating regularly held there, wrestling bouts, boxing matches, dances, private parties, rallies and performances of a variety of amusements. One of the highlights of the social year in Bury was the annual Chrysanthemum Show staged by the West Suffolk Horticultural Society. The owners of the big houses that surrounded Bury would urge their gardeners to produce better and better prize winning entries. The Corn Exchange would be filled with row upon row of hot house plants and astonishing vases of magnificent chrysanthemums. A string orchestra would play in the back ground and Bury society would admire the exhibits and have small wagers amongst themselves as to who might win the cups. After the Second World War, this gradually declined as people found it more and more difficult to recruit gardeners. Now fortunately the show is kept going by a small group of growers, who do it for the sheer pleasure and satisfaction. The standard is as high as it ever was, though there are no longer the massed ranks of hot house plants. The show is no longer held in the Corn Exchange and is now in the Nowton Park nurseries. This year the show, in its 154th year, is on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday 12 and 13th November. Any one who has any interest in gardening or flowers should come and see it --it is an amazing spectacle.
In 1958 the Council decided because of cost and declining use to pull down both the old and the second Corn Exchange and to replace them with one larger building of modern design. The public outcry was such that the scheme was abandoned and instead in 1969 a floor was built into the building and a row of shops formed on the ground floor. The first floor has continued to be used as a hall for a variety of uses, though again because of the cost and the advent of a better and more suitable venue on the old cattle market site in the new ‘Apex' shortly to be opened, it has been decided to let the first floor of the building to Wetherspoons, who run a chain of public bars/restaurants. Public opinion about this is as divided as ever, but hopefully this will put the building to good use and provide a venue that can provide reasonable priced family meals. It will be up to Wetherspoons to maintain an orderly and agreeable house, where the loud spoken fears of some are not realised.
Cllr Stefan Oliver
Monthly topic - August 2010 - Minden Ward
It's summer time and dare I say it but we seem to be doing alright with the weather so far. Bury is a very pretty town and the Abbey Gardens, roundabouts and floral displays once again are incredible. For this we owe our gratitude to the Bury in Bloom team of which I have to say I am a very proud member (I play a very small part in it, I hasten to add).
On Tuesday July 20th the judges were around for Anglia in Bloom, it was a lovely day and all went well. The sheer beauty of some of the displays can't help but take your breath away. I was so pleased to see that Westley Middle School took part so well done to them. The next stage of the competition will be Britain in Bloom which is being judged on August 4th, hopefully the weather will stay kind to us and enable us to do well again this year.
I visited my ward recently and had a chat with a few of the residents and apart from some anti-social behaviour problems no-one had anything much to report which brings me to my next point. I am on the panel of the Safer Neighbourhood Team; we had our meeting on July 21st at Westbury Social Club and discussed issues that had been raised by residents of Minden Ward. Suffolk County Council has managed to address the safety issues of schoolchildren at Westley by arranging to have zebra crossings at both Westley Road and West Road.
That's all for now. I hope you all enjoy your summer holidays and in the mean time any problems that occur please do not hesitate to contact me.
Councillor Patrick Chung (Minden Ward)
Monthly topic - July 2010 - Town Council Competitions
In this time of gloom and doom around the budget cuts, the Town Council is pleased to be holding two competitions to celebrate local achievements and recognise the hard work that goes into making our town such a lovely place to live in.
The allotments competition was held for the first time last year, and it really highlighted the variety of styles of allotment gardening, and the number of tenants who work so hard to gain the maximum crops from their allotments, despite the constant battles against weeds, deer, rabbits and other hazards! The panel of judges, all expert gardeners themselves, were very impressed.
This year, as last, there are two categories. All Council allotment holders will automatically be entered into the best allotment award. The judges will be looking for: the range and extent of cultivation, general appearance, control of weeds and rubbish, creativity, and compliance with tenancy terms and conditions.
The other category, the most environmentally friendly allotment, has a nomination form. You can nominate yourself, or someone else, for this award. In this case the judges will be looking for evidence of environmental sustainability, variety and quality of the crop, control of weeds and rubbish, use of compost, and the general appearance and creativity of each plot. Nomination forms are available to download from the website, or from the Council offices at 7 Angel Hill. They need to be returned by 16 July.
Judging will take place towards the end of July and a prize giving ceremony will be held later in the summer.
The St Edmunds Day awards will be given for the Citizen of the Year (18 or over), and the Young Citizen of the Year (under 18). Nomination forms for both are available to download from the website, or from the Town Council offices at 7 Angel Hill. Nominees must live in Bury St Edmunds. Forms must be returned by 7 September and shortlisted nominees will be invited to a prize giving later in the year, around St Edmunds Day on 20 November.
The Citizen of the Year award will be given to someone who has made an outstanding voluntary contribution to the good of the town. The Young Citizen of the Year will be awarded to someone who is an outstanding individual, or has overcome a serious disability, or is a long term carer or provider, or has performed an outstanding service for the benefit of the community.
We encourage you to nominate people for these awards. There are many people in the community who are doing a significant amount of voluntary work which is often unrecognised, and whose contribution deserves to be brought to public attention, and rewarded.
Monthly topic - May 2010 - Election of a Town Councillor in Southgate Ward
This month we talk about the forthcoming election of a Town Councillor in Southgate Ward.
Councillors are representatives of the people living in the Wards they represent - they help shape their community and improve life for local residents. They seek to ensure that the Council is aware of and takes into consideration the needs and views of all sections of the community within their ward. They contribute actively to the formation, development and review of the Council's policies, plans and budgets. They also meet local stakeholders on a regular basis, and are accessible to residents of the ward to listen to, and help deal with, issues affecting local people. They are often involved with local schools, groups, charities and committees. A Councillor can also assist in ensuring that local residents are well informed about the Council and the services it offers.
On Thursday 20 May 2010 an election will take place to fill a vacancy for a Town Councillor in Southgate Ward. The person who is elected will be one of a total of 17 councillors who represent the residents of Bury St Edmunds.
As there is more than one candidate there will be a contested election. Electors will be sent a poll card telling them where their polling station is and the hours it will be open (from 7am to 10pm). You should take this opportunity to influence who is elected to represent you in Southgate Ward by voting on polling day which is Thursday 20 May 2010.
Only those people who are on the Register of Electors will be able to vote at the election on 20 May 2010. If you are not sure if you are registered then contact the Electoral Services section of St Edmundsbury Borough Council to check (phone: 01284 757131 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org giving your full name and address).
In May 2011 all Council seats will be up for re-election for the four years 2011 - 2015. We would encourage you to consider standing and making a difference to your community. If you would like more information on the role of a Town Councillor please contact the Town Clerk.
Monthly topic - April 2010 - Armorial bearings of Bury St Edmunds
This month Cllr Oliver enlightens us about the Armorial Bearings of Bury St Edmunds.
In order that the largely illiterate people might know the authenticity and the veracity of proclamations that were brought to them, some kind of recognisable badge was needed to be worn by the officers, so that people would be assured of the genuineness of the item and its origin. Corporations therefore adopted the ancient use of Coats of Arms. A clear pictorial device, unique to them, duly registered and recorded in the College of Arms, the Sovereign's officers in matters of Heraldry. These ‘Arms' were worn by their officers and displayed on their property and documents as evidence of their originality. The practice of using Arms for identification, which had arisen from the need of people in battle to show some easily recognisable emblem, became common from the very earliest of times, even amongst Ecclesiastical, Corporate and Civic bodies.
The town of Bury St Edmunds, through the middle ages, prospered mightily from the sale of wool and the production of woollen cloth and yarn, which were sold in the great week long markets, held on the Angel Hill and in the Great Court of the Abbey. When the Abbey was dissolved in 1538 in the Reformation, the town's people, free at last from centuries of domination and rule by the Abbey, petitioned for their own town council and the chance to take control of their own affairs. This was granted to them, along with the rights to hold fairs, have a Mayor and Town Council, in a series of Royal licences.
The Coat of Arms granted to the Town of Bury St Edmunds in 1606 by King James I, had very ancient origins and was based on that displayed by the Abbey of St Edmundsbury. The abbey displayed on a blue shield three gold crowns. These alluded to St Edmund, who after his death in 869, became revered as the patron Saint of the three kingdoms of Southern England: Mercia, Wessex and Anglia, which had become united as one. He himself had no known Arms, as he lived in a time before their use became common
Many of the Abbey's rights and rents confiscated at the time of the Reformation in 1538 had been given by King Henry VIII to those of his subjects who supported him in the Reformation, but from those who did not, even the little that they had was taken, by way of fine and confiscation. Of the great Abbey itself, one of the largest and most important ecclesiastic establishments in Europe, very little remains. The lead was taken off the roof, the rain got in and the walls soon began to crumble. The stones were pulled down and sold as building material and dispersed over the county.
The grant of a device that was suitably singular but of recognisable historic origin, made to the Town Council displayed a blue shield bearing three pairs of silver arrows, each in saltyre points down ‘enfiling' a gold ancient crown, to show a difference from the Abbey and to acknowledge the martyrdom of their patron and former king, St Edmund. In addition, to commemorate the legend that the murdered King's head, which had been cut off and thrown away into the forest, had been found, being guarded by a wolf, when the seekers heard it calling ‘here I am, here I am', the town was granted, as a crest, a seated wolf, holding between its paws the crowned head of St Edmund. To commemorate the meeting of the Barons, at great personal danger, to swear on the high altar of the Abbey to compel King John to sign the Charter of human rights that they had drawn up and to acknowledge that King Edmund laid buried in the Abbey, the town was also granted the motto, “Shrine of a king, cradle of the law”.
These devices were borne and displayed by the Town Council through the succeeding centuries.
In 1974, reorganisation of local government took place and the Borough of Bury St Edmunds was combined with the Urban District of Haverhill, the Rural District of Clare and the Rural District of Thingoe. This new body, to take on the role of District Council as well as administering the affairs of the town, was to be called the Borough of St Edmundsbury. It was decided that the coat of Arms used by the Borough of Bury St Edmunds did not adequately represent this new body or its constituent and diverse communities and wider responsibilities, so a petition was made for a new grant of Arms, which more adequately expressed this expanded area. After much thought and discussion the Coat of Arms now used by the Borough of St Edmundsbury was devised and accepted. This displayed allusions to all four bodies, though it still displays the wolf crest and the same motto. At that moment, the former arms of the Borough of Bury St Edmunds became redundant.
In 2003, it became apparent to all that the actual Town of Bury St Edmunds, following this reorganisation, was left without any civic representation and so permission was sought and granted to form a Town Council, whose intended role was to look after the Town affairs. Application was made to the College of Arms for the original grant of Arms made to the Borough of Bury St Edmunds, but now made redundant, to be re-granted to the new Town Council as the natural successor of the former body. This was granted and confirmed by Royal licence from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2006.
Monthly Topic - January 2009 - Planning and Licensing
This month, Cllr Paul Simner explains the role of the Council's Planning and Licensing Committee:
Words that may not immediately grab your attention but when it comes to the role of the Town Council there is much that is done by its Planning and Licensing Committee. This Committee ends up being consulted on a high proportion of the planning and licensing applications that are submitted to St Edmundsbury Borough Council (SEBC) and Suffolk County Council (SCC). These might cover planning consent required to build or extend premises; the felling of trees; changes to property in a conservation area; major retail or wholesale establishments; the future plans for the development of Bury St Edmunds; proposed changes in traffic flow for events; licensing street vendors.
It can be a seemingly endless list, often in excess of 35 separate applications to be considered by the Committee that meets roughly fortnightly. But the Councillors are obliged to carefully consider each application on its merits before making their determination and recommendation. Deciding whether to object to an application is not easy because only ‘material planning considerations' can be taken into account, for example:
Monthly topic - September 2009 - Local Development Framework
This month we highlight the importance of St Edmundsbury Borough Council's (SEBC) current consultation on matters relating to the Local Development Framework:
1. Core Strategy: Submission Document - this is the final draft of the Core Strategy document which is intended to be submitted to the Secretary of State for examination by an independent planning inspector. The aim of this final consultation is to invite comments on whether the document is ‘sound' and legally compliant. The consultation questions being asked are very specific, designed by the Planning Inspectorate.
2. Development Management Development Plan Document: Preferred Options - this contains the new policies, and a list of those existing Local Plan policies being saved, which SEBC will use in the future to determine all planning applications. Views are being sought on whether you agree with the proposed new policies; and
3. Site Allocations: Issues and Options (Additional Sites) documents - these identify those new sites submitted to SEBC by developers, agents and landowners in their last (and final) call for sites from November 2008 - January 2009. The aim of this consultation is to ask about the suitability of sites, before the council makes a formal decision on them. It should be noted that comment is not being sought on sites that were included in the Site Allocations Issues and Options consultation that took place between November 2008 and January 2009.
These documents will form part of the Local Development Framework. Consultation is open to everyone and a Statement of Community Involvement sets out how this is to occur. Everything you should need to know about the documents and the process is contained on www.stedmundsbury.gov.uk/sebc/live/Local-Development-Framework-Consultations or by contacting the St Edmundsbury Borough Council planning policy team on 01284 757352 or 757368.
The Town Council attaches particular importance to this and will be convening a Special Meeting of its Members on Wednesday 30 September 2009 to work through the proposals and respond by the deadline of 5 pm on 7 October 2009. The Local Development Framework is what it says - it is a framework around which our town's future development will occur. It is important that you consider it and make your views known.
If there is more you need to know on this topic please make contact with any of the Town Councillors or members of staff.
Monthly topic - October 2009 - Allotments
This month Cllr Stefan Oliver talks about his own experience of 'grow your own' and the the Town Council allotments.
The original intent of providing allotments was to set aside enough land from which a person could support their family. Providing that a reasonable rotation of crops, year by year, was devised, a sufficient supply of vegetables could be maintained. Nowadays, there is no need for this. We can get abundant vegetables of every description from all corners of the world, in endless variety at any time of the year. We do not have to undertake the labour of growing them. Our hardest task to obtain this supper abundance is to push our bulging trolley back to the car. However, there are some downsides to this. It is become increasingly obvious that though the vegetable and fruit offer is abundant and varied, the flavour and ripeness is questionable. The use of chemical growth stimulants and pest and disease suppressants has left people both concerned and disappointed. They long for the vivid flavours of the different vegetables when they are allowed to properly mature before being presented. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the drive for the heaviest crops and the longest shelf life have lead to a flood of insipid and flavourless products which when prepared, have disappointed and failed to satisfy. The greatest loss however has been in seasonality. Nearly every type of fruit and vegetable has become available all the year round. Now produced out of our season at some remote side of the globe and delivered into our shops all the year round. Gone is the time when the first of the season become available. When we looked forward eagerly to the first asparagus, the first strawberries, the new season sprouts fresh from the fields following the first frosts.
There has been a great awakening of interest in the quality of the food that people are eating. Thanks to the stimulation of the many and popular television food programmes, people have come to understand that the vegetables that they usually buy are unripe, mass produced, heavily fertilised and sprayed, largely flavourless, disappointing and unsatisfactory. There has been a revival in interest in growing your own vegetables and in the satisfaction in being able to come home with a basket of vegetables that you have produced and grown yourself. No matter, that your carrots are a bit wiggly or your tomatoes are not quite round. No matter that the caterpillars have had half your cabbage. You have got the other half and it is going to taste so good at the expense of some labour and effort in growing them. You know that they have not been dosed with fertilizer or some noxious substance to make their skins tougher. You know that they are fresh - you have just cut them. With your hard work and care, you have produced something that can be put on the table with pride and pleasure. Unhappily it does not always work out so well. Our runner beans have been a disaster this year, but the tomatoes have been really good as have the courgettes, cucumbers and salad crops. The winter vegetables have mostly suffered from the drought - but then there is always next year. Carrots grown in a deep flower pot were quite successful too and we even have 3 small melons gradually swelling in a cold frame.
One of the unheralded benefits of the allotments has been the bonhomie and comradeship that is generated. People are willing to help each other, swap plants and be always ready with advice and encouragement. I have met people who take their picnic and spend the whole day on their allotments enjoying their work in the natural environment. I have met some who have turned their allotments into their own personal patch of heaven and others who devote such care and effort to their plots that all can see the successful reward of the labour of a contented person. Unhappily we do not have enough plots to meet the demand. We are well aware of the pleasure their successful culture brings to those who work them. We are equally well aware that we have a waiting list of 150 names of people who would like to take on an allotment of their own. We are actively seeking more ground so that these aspirations can be filled, but so far we have not had any success. One idea that has caught our attention has come from a London Borough. There, where they have no spare ground, they have asked people with large gardens which they are not using, to consider letting some portion of it to some one who would be interested in gardening it. There obviously has to be agreement about rent and share of produce. But none of these things are impossible to settle and it could very successfully work to the mutual advantage of both parties. If there are any out there who have more ground than you can happily manage and would be prepared to consider such an arrangement, please get in touch and we will try to find you someone who would like to do the gardening.
The Town council is keen to foster the allotments and encourage growers in every way. This year we held a competition to find the best allotment. We saw some wonderful and enterprising plots and the 12 that were short listed showed a high degree of skill and effort and were a great and outstanding tribute to those who worked them. We saw every kind of fruit and vegetable being grown in a stunning array. It must be fairly said that there were some plots that were no great credit to their holders. We had a small reception to present certificates to the selected and to the outright winner, which was a successful and enjoyable time for all. The five judges were: (1) Doreen Young from the TV programme ” Evacuate to the Country”. She was particularly tasked to consider whether the plots were capable of producing enough vegetables for her children; (2) Caroline Holmes, who has appeared on TV gardening programmes, is a garden designer of international repute and an expert in herbs; (3) John Bell has been a commercial gardener all his life and is at the moment horticultural adviser for Marlows; (4) Jo Thewlis, a reporter with the Bury Free Press freely admitted that she was no gardener but was looking with a lay man's eye. She was most impressed with the variety of produce, many of which she did not know. (5) Me (Stefan Oliver). I had been trained in agriculture and did 15 years in large scale agricultural management. I have grown my own vegetables more or less unsuccessfully for the last 50 years and I am President of the West Suffolk Horticultural Society.
We look forward to being able to fulfil every ambition to have a plot and will continue to search for available ground.
Cllr Stefan Oliver
Monthly topic - November 2009 - Introducing the new Town Clerk
This month Town Clerk, Jen Larner, introduces herself.
I took up the post of Town Clerk four weeks ago and am having to learn a lot very quickly about the role, particularly the procedures for meetings and the correct way to do things to comply with the statutory framework within which a Town Council works. Although I was a town councillor (in Norfolk) for three years, it does not prepare you for the complexities of ensuring that the behind the scenes operation runs smoothly! I am very grateful to Sue Hindry and Paula Gladwell, my colleagues, for being so patient with me and explaining things so well.
There are a lot of people to meet and get to know and, as in any new job that takes time. I look forward to finding out more about what makes this beautiful town tick, and getting involved in the community. I have always liked Bury St Edmunds and feel privileged to be living and working here.
My previous job was with a small housing charity, running a lodgings scheme which involved matching up people who wanted to rent out a room in their house with single homeless people who needed affordable accommodation. Prior to that I was co-ordinator (and then Chair) of Diss Community Partnership, which undertook many regeneration projects in the town, including enabling Diss to become a ‘Cittaslow' (slow town) and organising a year long festival based on the first poet laureate, John Skelton. Previous jobs have included setting up the Borderhoppa, a community transport scheme and dial-a-ride for the area; arranging work placements for years 12 and 13 students on vocational courses at a High School; running a Volunteer Bureau and being warden of a Quaker meeting house.
I have lived in Norfolk and Suffolk for the past 22 years, but am originally an Essex girl! I have always been involved in community projects and feel that partnership working is the way forward, to ensure that we all help create the communities we want to live and work in.
My interests are many and varied. I like walking and spent a month this summer in the Inner Hebrides, travelling around 14 different islands. I enjoy gardening and spent the last 4 years working in a ¾ acre garden and being pretty well self sufficient in vegetable production, with the surplus being sold at a local farmers' market and Country Market. I am musical and sing in a local choir, as well as playing in the Suffolk recorder orchestra and a small recorder ensemble, the Hoxne Windbags, and occasionally playing piano and cello. I enjoy going to concerts and the theatre, and participate regularly in circle dance groups and ceilidhs. I attend Quaker meetings. I have a huge concern for the environment and try to reduce my carbon footprint wherever possible. I have two children, Simon, aged 24 and Katy, 22.
If there is anything we can help with, or comments you wish to make regarding the Town Council, please do contact us - we can't promise to know the answer, but will do our best to find out.
Monthly topic - January 2010 - Risbygate Ward report
This month the Councillor Paul Simner talks about Risbygate Ward.
At long last a new crossing is to be built across Out Northgate /Fornham road to Tesco's; this is the second crossing on the ward at the moment, the other proposed crossing is across West road near to the Queen's Road junction. This is good news and I hope we may be able to continue to improve the safety for all.
Klondyke is due to be refurbished as a bridleway which will certainly make for a tidier area. I hope the Borough Council has had the foresight to provide adequate litter and dog bins when it is completed as it has proven to be a bit of a litter hot spot; if not then maybe the Town Council will be able to do more in this area.
As a member of the Safer Neighbourhoods team tasking committee I am pleased to say that Risbygate ward has been relatively quiet. Yes, work still needs to be done with speeding motorists still using some of the roads as rat runs and parking always seems to be an issue in several areas. There are many residents' parking schemes in place, though I am personally unconvinced that this solves the problem; it rather seems to move the problem around. Is the answer ‘Park and Ride'? I believe an effective Park and Ride scheme would solve many issues with parking in the town centre, around the college etc.
So we move on to the Tayfen road area and the proposed development. I am not too sure as to the timescale for this but it is definitely an area that could benefit from rejuvenation. Again I hope consideration to increased traffic movements has been taken into consideration. Is the answer ‘Park and Ride'? but I repeat myself.
We are now in our new offices on Angel Hill and will continue to provide an effective voice for the residents of the town whilst maintaining a cost effective attitude.
Monthly topic - February 2010 - Abbeygate Ward report
This month the Councillor Paul Farmer talks about Abbeygate Ward.
Abbeygate is such a wonderful area to represent. It is the most central ward in the town of Bury St Edmunds, and therefore includes the historic town centre grid, the Athenaeum, St Mary's, the cathedral, Angel Hill, Abbeygate Street, the new arc development, the town council's offices and much more. It has some grand residential properties (including 3 Chequer Square, Alwyne House, The Manor House, Greyfriars, The West Front and Norman Tower House) and distinguished residents (including one Lord, two Privy Counsellors, four Knights, a CB, a CBE, etc).
Although the ward is so central, people often do not realise that it is actually a lot bigger than one might think. In fact it covers a wide ranging area from the Southgate roundabout (close to my own home) northwards to include the main part of the town as far as Mustow Street. It then extends westwards over Parkway to take in much of the Victoria Street conservation area, Out Westgate and part of Hospital Road. There are currently about 2,650 households in the ward.
As a result of its size, Abbeygate is a two-member ward. That means that there are two borough councillors and two town councillors to represent it. Currently I and Cllr Richard Rout represent the ward on both councils, and were both elected as Conservatives.
You might think that having two representatives in a large ward makes the job of its councillors only half as difficult, on the basis that we can share the area equally. I am afraid it doesn't work like that. Whilst it would be convenient for Cllr Rout and me to split the ward down the middle, inevitably people contact whichever one of us they know best. My own view is that the ward should be split into two, allowing one representative to concentrate on each area, which would be a much better use of our time.
Like all councillors we face a myriad of enquiries, problems and issues, but because of being in the centre of the town, planning and licensing matters feature high on our list. Many of the houses in the historic core are old, and listed or in the conservation area. Consequently there is a steady stream of planning applications from residents who wish to update their property, perhaps turning a lean-to into a proper extension or making internal alterations which are subject to consent. With so many houses in terraces, or very close together, such applications often impinge upon neighbours and create disputes.
There are also occasionally high profile planning applications, such as the placing of mobile phone transmitter masts on top of the BT building in Whiting Street. Two such applications and one appeal caused considerable controversy in my early years as a councillor. The applications for the arc, the cinema (“it'll be great when the scaffolding's down”!) and the Goodfellows social housing at the Kings Road/Parkway junction (“the matchbox”) are just some of the other larger applications that have attracted attention.
The large number of public houses, bars and restaurants, all of which have to be licensed, is also unique to Abbeygate Ward. Since the Licensing Act 2003 there has been a steady stream of applications for later closing times, many of which have been objected to by nearby residents who suffer from late night rowdyism, or fear they will do so. Since January 2008 the area bordered by Guildhall, Westgate, Crown and Abbeygate streets has been subject to a ‘special area policy', which protects the residents and businesses from the cumulative impact of licenses, and attempts to limit the granting of additional ones.
One of the town council's most important functions is to be a statutory consultee in all planning matters and a ‘representative body' for licensing matters. Its planning and licensing committee meets every fortnight to examine all planning applications in the town. These meetings are open to the public, so residents concerned about an application can air their views. The committee then sends its considered recommendation to the borough council's development control committee that makes the final decision.
Licensing applications are dealt with differently. The 2003 Act allows the council to make representations on behalf of its residents. If those representations are legally valid, then the council can send a councillor or officer to the borough council's hearing to support that representation. This is particularly helpful where residents do not feel able or willing to represent themselves in what is a quasi-judicial hearing. In both planning and licensing matters the town council acts as an important conduit or enabler for its residents, making this area of its work a particularly good example of local democracy.
At the time of writing the future of local government in the county is uncertain. Since 2008 there have been moves to form one or more unitary councils, which would perform all the functions of both county and borough councils. Whatever happens, the town council will continue in its present form, though it may have greater powers. My guess is that Abbeygate ward will continue to exist, even if it has different borders - but the centre of Bury St Edmunds with its abbey ruins and church gate will always need representation.
Monthly topic - March 2010 - Traffic problem St Olave's ward
This month the Councillor Bob Cockle talks about traffic problems in St Olave's ward.
As you may be aware, St Edmundsbury Borough Council has at the moment and in principle agreed to carry out a survey on car parking in St Olave's ward, and Mildenhall estate. When both estates were planned, nobody thought that, in future years, residents would have to rely on the private car. Now in many cases there is more than one vehicle per household.
There is no doubt that this is getting more serious. More and more vehicles are parking on the grass verges. This is causing damage and is unsightly for many of the roads. But what are residents to do? In some cases if they park outside their property, this will block the road. There are areas where there are car parking places at the back of houses, but these are unlit and some residents are afraid to use them.
Roads such as Northumberland Avenue, and St Olave's Road, become very heavy with parked traffic. St Olave's Rd is very bad when there is a football match. Both are prime bus routes. There are people who park at bus stops, mainly because the road is not marked with the relevant sign. At one time this was a traffic offence, so was parking after dark facing the wrong way.
Should we have more double yellow lines, should we have parking on one side of the road only, should we build more garages, should we have more dropped kerbs? As you can appreciate any of these would cost money, both to install and to police.
As one of St Olave's ward members, I drive around this area quite regularly and I have to say that perhaps nothing can be done. The sensitivity of most drivers is very apparent; they do seem to appreciate that buses, ambulances and other heavy vehicles must use the roads. Let us hope that the survey throws up some solutions.
If there is more you need to know on this topic please make contact with any of the Councillors or members of staff.
Similarly, among the following examples, it will be seen that the Committee cannot put forward objections based on:
In arriving at their decision, the Committee takes account of factors of which Councillors are aware and any representations made to them by the public. Where they decide to object to an application, Councillors or sometimes the Town Clerk will be requested to orally present their reasons when the application goes before the Planning Authority - their views have on occasions assisted a decision to reject or modify an application, although not always are their opinions accepted.
The details of all applications are notified to all Town Councillors in advance of the Committee meetings to enable them to acquaint themselves with what is being proposed. The agenda for meetings is publicly displayed and details of specific applications are normally available online through the websites of SEBC or SCC. The minutes of meetings include the decisions made by the Committee.
So, next time you are an applicant, neighbour or someone having a significant interest in a planning or licensing application, think how this might be affected by the involvement of your Town Council and remember you are welcome to attend one of its meetings to find out what goes on. And, of course, any queries you may have regarding the Town Council's role in planning and licensing can be addressed to the Town Clerk.
Monthly Topic - February 2009 - Good Housekeeping
This month, Cllr Mrs Pat Warby who is a member of the Finance Committee and undertakes the role of Councillor Internal Auditor explains how the Town Council ensures financial accountability.
All of us realise the importance of good housekeeping, but this becomes more significant when it relates to the spending of public money. The Town Council is obliged to publicly account for its income and expenditure and we therefore have in place different mechanisms to ensure this.
So where does the Town Council's money come from? This largely comes from Council taxpayers and for 2009/10 it is seeking £187,903 to provide its services; a figure that is less than last year. A relatively small amount of £20,000 is held in reserve and the Council invests some money to attract interest.
Annually a budget is prepared and all expenditure has to be approved by the Full Town Council. As with other organizations, about 50% is spent on staffing costs although, following an internal review, we now only employ one full-time and two part-time members of staff. Other main areas of expenditure relate to providing premises including running costs and the services that we provide. Very good examples exist of how we have made savings, for example in office administration.
The Council's Finance Committee meets regularly to review the budget, examine relevant documents and ensure that the books are being balanced. They will make recommendations where appropriate to carry out adjustments and assist the longer-term planning of the Council's finance. Designated Councillors are empowered to sign cheques on behalf of the Council and safeguards are in place to ensure that this process operates effectively and lawfully.
The Councillor Internal Auditor also carries out a vital role in making sure that the detail of the Council's financial arrangements are observed, closely examining documents and ensuring that compliance with required policies and practices. Typically this involves a day each quarter spent auditing areas of income and expenditure and checking the competence of staff.
Do these arrangements mean that Councillors and staff are the only people involved in checking? Far from it, because further scrutiny is conducted by independent auditors, described as internal and external audits. The role of the former is to audit the year end accounts to ensure that all the correct procedures have been followed. Council is required to submit an ‘Annual Return' summarising its annual activities at the end of each financial year to the External Auditor. In both instances, they issue reports which put the Council under the spotlight and action is taken to progress any issues raised. Minutes of meetings show how matters have been dealt with by the Council or its Committees and, of course, meetings are open to the public and press.
While we might all say that there is never enough money to go round, the Town Council tries to do its best with what it has and has the public's interest at heart. Any queries you may have regarding the Town Council's role in finance can be addressed to the Assistant Town Clerk who is the appointed Responsible Financial Officer, the Town Clerk or any of the Town Councillors.
Monthly Topic - March 2009 -Maintaining standards
This month, the Chairman of the Council, Cllr Richard Rout and John Saunders the Town Clerk discuss the importance to the Town Council of ethical standards.
Several members of the Town Council hold elected positions in other walks of life, for example within the County or Borough Councils. As Richard explains, “That does not automatically mean that they are ‘rubber-stamped' as of unquestioned integrity.” Upon appointment each Councillor must undertake to comply with The Local Authorities (Model Code of Conduct) Order 2007 which covers their commitment when conducting the business of the Council or acting as its representative:
Although future amendments may occur, the Code does not currently affect a Councillor's conduct other than when they are acting in their official capacity, apart from certain circumstances where they have, or become convicted of, a criminal offence.
Each Councillor is obliged to complete a declaration of acceptance of office undertaking to observe the Code and to register their interests, completing a lengthy form that details all manner of issues that may have a bearing on public life. For example, these include reference to property owned, business interests and affiliation to organisations. As John comments, “It is a very intrusive look into the lives of Councillors as individuals but it is there to safeguard against inferences that concealed information could influence their decisions.” Their interests and any subsequent changes are recorded in a register held by the Monitoring Officer who acts independently of the Town Council and through whom any alleged breaches of standards in public life can be notified.
Richard adds, “It is not sufficient just to make a one-off written declaration of personal interests. At each meeting of the Town Council, or its Committees, members are required to announce before an item is discussed where such an interest may exist. Examples where personal interest may apply are where contracts are considered; where hospitality or gifts have been received; where there is a family connection or close association with any person. As John says, “These examples are part of a much wider list and Councillors must be mindful of the onus placed upon them.”
Where a Councillor has a personal interest in any of the Council's business the interest may also be classed as prejudicial if it is one which a member of the public with knowledge of the relevant facts would reasonably regard as so significant that it is likely to prejudice the Councillor's judgment. When this happens the member must leave the room whilst the matter is dealt with. Examples of areas that do not constitute a prejudicial interest are where an allowance, payment or indemnity is given to members or in the setting of Council tax or a precept under the Local Government Finance Act 1992.
Richard concludes, “Many members of the public may be unaware of the degree to which Councillors are subject to scrutiny but it is vital to our democracy that those who serve the public are held to account and required to act in a lawful and ethical way when conducting Council business. It is not an easy subject to summarise in a short article such as this but I hope that it gives a flavour of how we operate.”
More extensive information can be obtained from the Town Clerk.
Monthly Topic - April 2009 - Quality and Service Delivery
This month John Saunders the Town Clerk highlights the importance to the Town Council of delivering quality of service in a manner that meets its aims.
Before becoming Town Clerk I was engaged in many roles that required me to deliver high standards of service, involved me assessing the performance of organisations or investigating complaints. These features also apply to the Town Council and it is vital that members of staff are committed to good service and continuous improvement and operate within clear standards, policies and legal requirements. Not always will we get things right and, should this be the case, there must be avenues of recourse open to those we serve.
These are reasons why much time over the past six months has been devoted to the Council reviewing and putting in place policies and procedures, alongside the daily need to ensure that the services we provide are being proficiently delivered. The Council has not done this to be trendy or as tokenism - it represents the intent to move forward.
Within this website you will find reference to:
So how do we know how we are doing? The annual process of audit not only looks at our financial performance but ensures that we operate a good overall service. The Council obtained Quality Status in 2005 and will again need to show at the end of 2009 that it is maintaining the standards required to achieve its reaccreditation. Council itself can be its own critic - its various Committees monitor progress and compliance with plans, policies and procedure. All of this is designed to make the Town Council accountable and it shows how it is performing against various benchmarks. But it always attaches importance to how the townspeople themselves perceive the service which is why we continue to encourage your feedback whether it is delivered via e-mail, letter or in person.
If there is more you need to know on this topic please make contact with any of the members of staff.
Monthly Topic - May 2009 - Safer Neighbourhoods
This month Cllrs Paul Simner and Patrick Chung explain how the Town Council works with the town's Safer Neighbourhood Teams to concentrate on topical and safety issues affecting the community.
Suffolk remains one of the lowest crime areas in the Country and we want to keep it that way. But even low crime levels bring with them nuisance and anti-social behaviour and no longer should we look to the police to deal with everything. We all have a responsibility to play a part in the reduction, prevention and detection of the undesirable side of life.
Across the town Safer Neighbourhood Teams are made up of Police Officers, Police Community Support Officers, Special Constables and Police Support Volunteers. They hold regular tasking meetings with key members of the Councils that cover the town, partners from health and education to identify and solve local problems. The Town Council is represented by Councillors Chung, Rout and Simner within the tasking groups. Examples of issues that have been highlighted include anti-social behaviour in the town centre, Hardwick shopping precinct and at Ram Meadow; cyclists without lights and riding on footpaths. Although the tasking meetings are not open to the public, the police or your Councillors are prepared put forward any problems brought to notice and ensure they are given consideration.
The tasking groups are not ‘talk shops' and a lot has been achieved by bringing together people who can combine their resources and tackle the issues. For example, restricting evening and late night access to car parks has curtailed nuisance and noise from people who were using them as ‘race tracks', clamping down on unroadworthy vehicles curbed the antics of some who used cars and motor cycles to disturb the peace of residents and visitors. We have been able to accompany Police Officers on patrol to see at first hand the problems that exist, to see how they enforce the law in a tactful but meaningful way and to realise the benefits that Safer Neighbourhood Teams bring.
The concept of tasking groups is excellent and puts this town ahead of many others in keeping problems to the minimum. But, as we said earlier, it needs the support of everyone - getting to know and work with members of the Team is something we should all be doing. Your Town Councillors are encouraging this to happen.
Should you need anything further regarding Safer Neighbourhood Teams or their tasking groups please contact staff at the Town Council who will willingly assist you.
Monthly Topic - June 2009 - A day in the life of ….
This month Sue Hindry describes some of her responsibilities and the way in which the Town Council's services are provided
It's the 1st of June today and half term's over once again so the roads were a bit busier this morning
When I get to work I start my daily routine. I always switch on the computer first because it takes so long to come to life! I then switch on the printer, photocopier, unlock the filing cabinets and open the blinds as well as put the kettle on for my first cuppa (and often last) of the day.
As the Town Council's only full time employee, some days I am in the office on my own which is why unfortunately sometimes when you telephone us we don't answer the phone and you have to leave a message [please do because we will ring you back as soon as we can] and sometimes when you visit the office we are not open [if possible give us a ring to check we are here first].
This morning I've been working on allotments administration - I bet you don't realise how much there is to do on the allotments. I've still got 10 or so payments of this year's rent which are outstanding and need chasing up again - this time the tone of the letter is more severe because the previous reminder hasn't worked. Actually, I wonder if some of them don't want their plot any more but just haven't bothered to tell us! I've also sent out the paperwork and invoices for the two new tenants who took over plots last week as well as sending a letter offering the vacant plot at the Nowton Road site to the lucky person at the top of our (too) long waiting list. My colleague Paula has been out to the allotment sites today to put up a notice about the incorrect use of hosepipes and to identify plots that aren't being fully cultivated (we call them “neglected”) so that she can advise tenants that they must improve or they will loose their plot.
This afternoon I've got to do the minutes of the Christmas lights committee meeting. Although I'm familiar with what is required and they shouldn't take too long, it is important to ensure that minutes meet the requirements of Council's Standing Orders and record decisions made. Then I've got some financial information to prepare for the Annual Report that the Town Clerk's working on (he'll be chasing it when he's in tomorrow!).
We get quite a lot of phone calls from people who are not sure which council they need to speak to for the particular service they require and from the various directory enquiry services who seem to give out our phone number whenever they can't find the correct one! We always do our best to point people in the right direction and those who want St Edmundsbury Borough Council can be transferred. It is confusing and it may seem like we are all doing the same things but we aren't - honest!
I was really pleased last week that I was able to go down to London for a free training course which was specifically tailored for local councils on V.A.T. and run by the experts (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs). Not the world's most exciting subject I know, but as I've not been “Responsible Finance Officer” (RFO) very long it was one of the areas that I felt I needed to know more about. I enjoyed it, learnt a lot and made some good contacts with people from elsewhere
I've just realised that the Town Clerk wanted me to keep my comments to a page so I need to stop now! There is lots more that we do so if you haven't heard enough or you've got any questions please ask - my contact details are on the contact us page.
With best wishes
Monthly Topic - July 2009: Working in Partnership
This month John Saunders the Town Clerk outlines some ways in which the Town Council works with others to ensure more effective services.
‘Partnership' has become one of the buzz words of our age - I was once told by a person from an organisation that they had contact with 308 partners. When I questioned them as to what this had achieved, the bottom line was virtually nothing.
For the Town Council, the importance of partnership working cannot be underestimated - in a tight financial climate, with limited resources and the potential for services to overlap with those of others it is essential that we enter into ways of joined-up working. Rather than get hung up on theory as to whether a partnership should only be recognised if there is a service level agreement or whether a partnership constitutes a practical approach, it might be helpful to indicate some of the areas in which our benefits occur.
The very nature of the Town Council's work brings it into contact with the services of Suffolk County Council, St Edmundsbury Borough Council and other local authorities and public bodies - it is important to realise that this is often as a statutory consultee, for example when considering planning and licensing applications when the Town Council is registering its own views. This may not be seen as partnership because of the need to remain partial and independent. But in working with the Police Safer Neighbourhood Teams Councillors are able to inject their thoughts and views to bring about solutions to problems in the town.
Although it may seem low key, the Town Council is working with the Tourist Information Centre to provide information to support the coming Heritage Open Days and has recently assisted the promotion of the St John's Street Fayre, both events that are always of immense interest to the town's residents and visitors.
Councillors represent the Council on a variety of local bodies, an example of which is the Bury in Bloom event to which we provide financial support and this year we have assisted their promotion by a window display at our offices.
Another area of contribution is to the town's Christmas lights and switch-on which involves expenditure, administration and the voluntary work from Councillors and staff to bring about success. But this event could not happen if it were not for the efforts of members of the Committee which includes representatives of Town Centre Management, the Chamber of Commerce, arc and residents.
Of equal importance is a recent initiative that has involved residents of Tayfen House, Bury St Edmunds, in volunteer work at the town's allotments. They have undertaken sterling work in general maintenance and fencing repairs at a time when the weather has added to their sweat and toil and we are truly grateful for their efforts.
And, finally, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Council occasionally receive invitations to attend events and functions. These form part of their duties and often involve them giving up their evenings or weekends in an unpaid capacity. Often, it is through these occasions that networks are built and strengthened and that opportunities to work closer become a reality.
My anecdote in the second paragraph showed that some partnerships are hollow and provide little. The Town Council can show that by working alongside others there are outcomes of which we can be proud and that are meaningful to the community.
If there is more you need to know on this topic please make contact with any of the Councillors or members of staff.
Monthly Topic - August 2009 - Licensing
This month the Town Clerk John Saunders explains the Town Council's role in Licensing Applications. Under delegated powers the Planning and Licensing Committee deals with such matters.
The expression ‘there are two sides to every coin' is particularly relevant when dealing with licensing applications on which, as a responsible authority, Council can put forward representations to the Licensing Authority (St Edmundsbury Borough Council).
The key issue is that representations must be relevant and therefore:
Before making a representation the Town Council also needs to take into account the effects to residents or businesses in the vicinity of the premises to which the application relates. Councillors therefore cannot just suppose that the lateness of hours, the location or the profile of users are reasons in themselves to oppose an application. They must provide facts that provide any grounds for opposition. Often these derive from people who have brought their concerns to the notice of their ward councillors or people who have attended the meetings of the Planning and Licensing Committee and made their views known. Remember, all the agendas of the Committee's meetings are published on notice boards and this website, are open to the public and include a public forum. The weight of evidence relating to the objectives and the vicinity will be of great importance.
The process of making representations is transparent, with details of any objection being notified to the applicant (objections become ‘public documents'). If the Authority considers them to be relevant a hearing must be convened, unless agreement on the points raised has been agreed beforehand. Rules apply to the manner in which the hearings are conducted.
So, Councillors do not have an easy task when considering applications or variations to premises licences and cannot be ruled other than what the process allows. They are, however, committed to playing their part in ensuring that the town's licensed premises are conducted in a way that allows for the safety and enjoyment of everyone.