Report from Central Bedfordshire Council Ward Members 2015-16

CBC has been busy since the new term took effect in May last year. The relentless pursuit of efficiency improvements continues throughout the organisation, but against the back cloth of not sacrificing frontline services.

While initiatives such as an assault on the volume of paper used, the wide ranging role out of laptops and tablets to allow more staff greater connectivity while in the field, help to drive such efficiency improvements, CBC have also sort to better the accessibility by the public of its work through webcasting Full Council, Executive and Development Management Committee meetings.

A major overhaul of the council’s website has just been launched, which again will allow greater access to services and information and less reliance on the call centre.

The provision of a first class education for children in Central Beds remains a key priority and it is pleasing that Fairfield Lower school continues to perform as Oustanding and initial feedback would suggest broad support for the inclusion of the planned new school under its wing. The governments recent announcement about academies status for all schools, offers some challenging times ahead if implemented.

Etonbury School is mid way through a multimillion pound investment, that in addition to providing a much broader range of facilities for students, which will also be available for use by the public outside of school hours.

Since the withdrawal of CBC’s development strategy last year, we have been left in a precarious position regards unwanted developments. The current lack of an approved local plan and, following the very recent appeal hearing in Henlow, the Inspector’s insistence that we don’t have a 5 year land supply, has left the whole of Central Beds vulnerable to rogue applications.

That said, the position on a 5 year land supply may be concluded fairly soon, which will afford us a greater level of protection. With the enabling works under way on the former Pig Testing site and plans firming up for a rapid opening of the new school, we are all reminded of the appetite for development we face in this area. With the initial consultation under way by Campbell Buchanan on there proposals for the land adjacent to the new school, we welcome feedback on their proposals. The two recent applications by PJ Livesey met with differing outcomes at the development management committee, with the larger development gaining approval and the smaller one being rejected. It was clear what the feelings of residents were on these two issues and I hope the necessary call in on the smaller scheme reflected those views.

Your ward councilors are in regular dialogue with the relevant officers on such matters and will continue to oppose inappropriate applications.

A recent call for sites will look at land use across the authority, over the next 15-20 years. With stretching targets imposed on us for development, it needs this sort of planning to ensure the infrastructure across the whole of Central Beds grows accordingly. Concerns over the level of availability of primary health care in the area have been loudly voiced and these have been fed back into the NHS.

A renewed effort is to be made over the outstanding issues at Fairfield hall. The length of time taken to resolve these matters with the developers is unacceptable and a different approach is being considered to help end this situation. Likewise, after an initial attempt to effect a change in the postal address at Fairfield, support in principal has been given by the Post office to do so. We hope to see the implementation of a 20mph limit around Fairfield soon and are looking at other areas of co-operation with CBC on projects ranging from a graveyard extension to new allotments.

While not in Fairfield, it was most pleasing to see the level of support from the FPC and other local councils against the illegal occupation of a parcel of land in Astwick by Gypsy and Travelers. CBC has since then refused planning and issued notice to quit the site. An appeal hearing on both counts has just been set for 13th July.

A disappointing government settlement just before Christmas last year, left CBC with little alternative but to raise council tax by just under 4%. Half of this is specifically ring fenced for elderly care and comes after 5 years of no increase. It is however our intention to not increase council tax again during this term.

We continue to work for the best interests of residents and given appointments within Central Beds Council including the Vice Chairman of Sustainable Communities Scrutiny Committee, Deputy Executive Member for Corporate Resources, Member of the Development Management Committee and membership of the Planning Enforcement Task Force, we hope our influence can serve Fairfield well.

Thank you.

March 2016.