19 Feb 2011

Open Gardens, Scrutiny, Heavy Arts, Forests, parishes and more

Well this is a bit of a ramble of bits and bobs over last couple of weeks - it has been another busy patch so this is a bit of a catch up...

Great news re the Edible Open Gardens project - I and some fellow Transition Stroudies have nbeen meeting to put this project together - basically opening edible gardens to encourage more people to grow their own - well the good news is we have a grant from the Coop and a small grant from Cainscross Parish Council so we are up and running - see more about it here - and more soon on this blog as we have another meeting coming up. Photo - our meeting a wee while ago.

Heavy art - well this is an interesting concept - it has been used to describe art like welding, wood carving, printing etc....well I was fortunate to be shown around one of the venues that a new group of artists are considering to buy in the Stroud area. A very exciting project - look forward to being able to share more in the future on this.

Scrutiny meetings - well I've had a fair few of these - Friday I had a days training with other councillors at Egypt Mill (a rare event to have a whole day of training) - a very useful exercise that will hopefully improve our role as critical friend to the Council. We do urgently need to do a better job as I've noted before.

I am also currently chairing an inquiry (or some prefer to call it a Task and Finish Group) into the standards of our Council Housing stock. Well I had another couple of meetings this week on that and hope to prepare a final report over the weekend for early next week.

Water fluoridation - I covered the disappointing court ruling re Southampton here - the latest twist is that Freedom of Information stuff shows the Department of Health are to use Southampton as guinea pigs - see article here.

Forest victory - so Caroline Spelman apologises to MPs over forest sell-off consultation. Responding today to the government's statement scrapping the proposals for the forest sell-off, Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas MP said: "On behalf of the many hundreds of my constituents who have written in to oppose the sell-off of our public forest estate, I welcome the Government's decision to ditch these reckless plans - and am encouraged by the commitment given to me by the Secretary of State that those people who led the inspirational grassroots movement against the sell off will be included in the new panel of experts set up to consider the future of the forests. Now it will be vital to ensure that the panel itself operates in public. This major u-turn exposes the shambolic nature of the Government's policy-making - and is the inevitable consequence of ministers blindly charging ahead with ideologically driven cuts."

Randwick Parish - Thursday night I joined the Parish - the first time for a while as the meetings have clashed with Scrutiny and Full Council at the District. One of the members of the public proposed the council be the first in the country to plan a Neighbourhood Plan - these will come into force later in the year if the legislation goes through - they will mean the Parish can have more say in where development goes. I will return to this issue again but welcome the Parish getting a head start on this. I have already asked the District Council planners on this and there is currently no support there and their view is that NPs will be more likely to be created after the Core Strategy is in place.

I gave a presentation as usual of issues that I am currently dealing with - and also a brief update of SDC issues. I also sought info as to whether anyone in the Parish might have a snow plow as teh County will support if there is one locally. At present neither Parish has one. It was good to make contact with the Parish and hear about what issues are currently being dealt with - many of the issues I've covered lots on thsi blog are moving forward slowly...'20 is Plenty' signs are due to go up again, footpath signs that are poor have been identified and we hope for replacement, grit bin replacements have been requested but it seems on hold as the County are reviewing how they do grit, some minor amendments to the Parish Settlement boundary have been requested, some more street lighting is set to go off at night (great stuff - this saves lots of money and there is no evidence of crime increases - indeed we can return the village to more of a rural setting rather than this urban glow) - see minutes soon here.

Whiteshill and Ruscombe Parish - the big story here is that the Parish Plan questionnaire results are in and being collated. Here are some summary points picked out from the 170 or so questionnaires completed....

Would use / would attend • 80% of the 170 households would use recycling facilities for cardboard if suitable sites could be found locally, 65% garden waste and 56% plastics • 65% would use a village skip for large non recyclable waste twice a year • 61% would attend a free fete with amateur entertainers, 59% a market or boot sale, 56% open gardens and 51% a firework display.

Support this idea / think this is a good idea • 74% support the idea of people having solar panels on their roofs • 70% think it would be a good idea to form a volunteer group to improve the wildlife habitats in the village and road verges • 65% think it would be a good idea to form a volunteer group to encourage bees to nest around the village • 69% support the idea of setting up a network of Community Buddies to help residents.

Preferred / desirable options • 74% think that extensions and infill development should be in keeping with the local area • 68% think that projects such as a sports/community centre, tennis courts, changing rooms, public toilets and youth activities should be funded through applying for funding and grants • 61% think a good idea for using the old phone box in Ruscombe would be to turn it into an information point about walks and wildlife • 55% think the roadside verges around the village should be maintained to promote traditional Cotswold plants • 54% think the parish should try and get children involved with repainting the bus shelters

Importance of various aspects of the parish • 86% think it is essential to keep the school in the village, 82% the playing field, 73% the children’s play area, 73% the shop, 69% the village hall, 61% the pub and 51% the church.

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