From our Reporter at the Parish Council Meeting
THE STRENGTH - OR WEAKNESS, depending on your point of view - of the Parish Council is the steadiness of its agenda and discussions. There are few sudden revelations and, anticipating little happening in the first meeting of the year, I amused myself by considering items on the agenda which may make everyone sit up. For example we were told just before Christmas that "women with short legs are at an increased risk of developing liver disease", while another recent finding is that "sufferers of restless legs syndrome"are "more likely to have a stroke or heart attack". It doesn't look good for women with restless short legs.
The Agenda did not disappoint. It contained most of the old favourites. Geoffrey did liven it up at the beginning by saying it was his 68th birthday that very day and that he couldn't think of a better way to celebrate it.
For once the Parish Vacancy was filled immediately. The new member is John Jordan, who moved to Commissioner's Farm in May 2001 and is Managing Director of a joint venture company operated by EDF energy. He has also been a school governor for the last 8 years. This appointment should add strength to our Parish Council.
Hazel Williams was very brief but joyfully announced that Mark Lloyd had decided to become the new CCC Chief Executive and that this will save £40,000 in trying to find a new one. It seems the government is only increasing its support grant by 2% which will result in a 5% rate increase which is 90p per band D per week. Hazel revealed they were always advised to quote any increase by the week as this sounds less.
Alan Alderson also reported that the government's support grant has gone up just 1%. Fly tipping is still a major problem and it seems that Martin Stacey will not send out his men if the tracks are too muddy, or if there is a great body of travellers around. Also for Health and Safety reasons men are no longer allowed to go into ditches to collect rubbish any more, and they have to wait for a grab lorry. Is Health and Safety becoming a threat to our Civil Liberties? The future of the Post Offices in Burwell, Bulbeck, Bottisham, Lode and Quy will be decided about May/June. Alan also reported that Loder Bevington has resigned after 6 years as Chairman of Swaffham Bulbeck PC.
High Street Signing and Naming has yet to be resolved though Geoffrey is now proposing a new sign called "Swaffham Bulbeck Road"and he had erected a sign in what he thought was the best position. Eric Day thought the whole thing was "a waste of time"and wondered why Geoffrey wanted it "when we don't have Reach Road and Burwell Road". Some people in the contested area still wish to remain in the High Street.
Under Steve Kent-Phillips'guidance the play area improvements and the installation of the new Play House will soon be completed. When finished and the weather improves there will be a big celebratory party.
There is no news on the flooding of the fens but on Wednesday 5 March the National Trust is giving another presentation on the Wicken Vision. If you want to see Geoffrey at his best, or worst, then do attend. Apart from being amused a number of serious matters will be discussed which will affect people in Swaffham Prior. Meanwhile Geoffrey, quoting the Crier as evidence, has raised the alleged questionable sale of Hurdle Hall Farm with the then Acting Chief Executive of the CCC.
Following a request from the PC via the Crier for land available for affordable housing, there has been an offer from John Mundin who lives up the lane containing the non-working windmill. It was suggested and agreed that Hastoe Housing should be put in touch with Mr Mundin. That is an especially interesting lane with lots of separate plots of land which can now be investigated following the departure of the previous owner of the nonworking windmill. But that's a separate story.
John Jordan asked whether the PC had a "Vision"of how much affordable housing the PC would like to see provided in Swaffham Prior. David Almond thought this a great idea and our very own Quality Clerk's eyes lit up as she reminded the meeting that the possibility of a Parish Plan had been thrown out last year, and asked whether it should be revived. Alan immediately supported the idea and said that if every village had a plan and Prior didn't then we could be at a disadvantage. He said that Bulbeck had a very good plan which had taken two years to prepare. It seems they also had 4 areas mapped out for possible low cost housing over the next 10-15 years. But then it does appear that Bulbeck does have more land available (more local farmers?). John Jordan was especially keen on the plan and offered to be involved. Many of the PC were dazzled at the thought of having 'Visions'and 'Targets'just like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. As a first step forward the PC asked if they could see the Bulbeck Plan and whether someone would come and talk to the PC. Karen thought this possible and that she would ask as "Bulbeck were very keen to have a closer relationship" - except of course on the Hockey Pitch!!
Steve then interposed and said he thought the Parish Plan was a complete waste of time, that they were doing well as a PC, and that "VISION"smacked too much of "management speak". Geoffrey supported Steve while others remained silent after such a sincerely held outburst. Alan admitted that Reach had asked for volunteers and no-one came forward.
To find out more about the Parish Plan read pages 6-7 of the February 2007 Crier which gives a very full account of its workings and the PC's discussion and decision. If the report is correct the PC has until March 2008 to apply. Maybe pages 6-7 should be reproduced when copy is a bit short.
And to find out more about women's short legs and restless legs consult the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and Neurology.