Saturday, 12 December 2009

Planning Application Consultation

This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
  • Weavers Cottage, Lower Road, Barnacle - amendments to the planning permission previously given for the erection of a first floor rear extension.

Full details of the application (including site plans) can be found by clicking here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Parish Council Meeting - 2 December

Last Wednesday night I attended the December meeting of Shilton Parish Council.

As well as updates from County Councillor Phillip Morris-Jones and Borough Councillor Neil Campbell, there were updates on a number of on-going matters the parish council has been dealing with. These included the proposed purchase of land in Ash Tree Grove, new seating for the children's play area in the playing field, and the proposed alteration to the speed limit in Wood Lane/Shilton Lane/Lower Road (which I blogged about here in July - who says it takes councils forever to do anything?!)

The parish council also formally signed the contract to purchase the red telephone kiosk in Lower Road, Barnacle that I blogged about here in September. The contract can now be returned to BT and the kiosk (minus the telephone equipment) should soon become a community asset and saved from removal.

Perhaps the most interesting topic of discussion at the meeting was the setting of the parish council's budget for 2010/11. As I've explained before, your yearly Council Tax aggregates the cost of four organisations into one bill - Warwickshire County Council, Rugby Borough Council, Shilton Parish Council and Warwickshire Police Authority. At our latest meeting, the parish council were required to agree what its element of the bill would be for the forthcoming financial year. This then gets added to the amounts required by the other three organisations and forms the bill that you receive through the post.

Our income from the Council Tax that you've paid during this current year is £15,580 (which is paid to the parish council by Rugby Borough Council [to whom you pay the tax] in two equal installments in April and September). Parish councillors held a full discussion on the range of possibilities for next year, and finally decided that our Council Tax precept for 2010/11 would be £15,700 - an increase of 0.77% from this year's amount.

Councillors were mindful of the difficult financial position many households were currently finding themselves in. Whilst the cost of the services that the parish council funds may well increase year on year (eg. street lighting, maintenance of the playing fields and cemetery, and the business rates on the new Church Street car park - which I told you about here in May), it was thought inappropriate to increase its share of the Council Tax beyond the very smallest of amounts.

It'll be interesting to see how the increase compares against the larger councils that make up the vast majority of your Council Tax bill. I fully expect this to be a big issue when the bills begin to land on people's doormats in March/April, to be picked up and exploited by the national political parties leading up to next year's General Election. All councils, large and small, are under pressure to keep Council Tax increases as low as is practically possible, and your parish council has recognised that fact in the budget it's set for 2010/11.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Photographs Around Shilton and Barnacle

Reading other blogs, it strikes me that one thing my blog lacks is pictures and video. The work of a parish councillor can get a little dull for even the most interested of reader, so I shall try and lighten things a little with one or two photographs taken by me from around Shilton and Barnacle.

In the first of an occasional (and probably infrequent) series, here are a few shots taken in a field near to Sowe Fields Farm during the course of an enjoyable hour-long walk this morning. (If the quality is a little poor, it'll be because they were taken on my mobile phone.)

The next post will get back to the council stuff, I promise!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Fosse Division Community Forum - 1 December

On Tuesday night I attended the Fosse Division Community Forum in Pailton. This is a quarterly public meeting organised by Warwickshire County Council to discuss matters affecting, and of interest to, the Fosse area of Rugby.

The main topics of interest for me were proposals for a rural CCTV system being rolled out in interested parishes throughout the borough. The system is being promoted by the county council and provides for a camera that sends images, via the internet, back to a central control area, which can be retrieved at a later date by the police if there was suspicion that criminal activity had been captured by the camera. It's important to stress that these cameras would not be continously monitored, so it would be unlikely that a crime would be observed as it was taking place, but they could provide additional evidence to the police for any subsequent investigation or prosecution.

A trial of the system will be held in Wolston in the new year, and I hope to go and see it in operation to judge its potential value for Shilton and Barnacle. The officer leading on the project also agreed to attend a future meeting of the parish council to give a fuller presentation on system's capabilities.

The use of CCTV cameras can be controversial, with some people objecting to the principle of being filmed and recorded whilst they go about their daily business. Other people find some amount of comfort in the deterrent effect it can provide (especially with the relative sparsity of rural policing). If the parish council did seek to have a CCTV camera installed in either village, I would be seeking a full consultation exercise with residents to ensure that they supported the measure. In the meantime, if you have an opinion on this issue, leave a comment at the bottom of this post or contact the parish council direct.

The forum meetings also provide an opportunity for the public to suggest local policing priorities in the area for the next three months. Shilton Parish Council has been aware for a number of months now of instances of alleged drug dealing/taking on the Shilton Village Hall car park. I raised this as a priority to be addressed, and it was agreed that Warwickshire Police's Safer Neighbourhood Team would focus resources on the car park over the coming months.

The police are required to report back on the outcome of their work at the next forum meeting. Helpfully, this meeting will be held on 23 March at Shilton Village Hall. I hope that as many local residents as possible turn up to the meeting to hear what the police have done about this particular problem, and to question officers themselves about any other concerns that they may have.

A number of other topics were discussed, including:
  • The county council's Cabinet are to consider a report on the outcome of the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service's consultation exercise at their meeting on 28 January. If the outcome of that consultation exercise is to recommend changes to the existing Fire Service (including the potential closure of a number of fire stations in the county which I blogged about in October here), a final decision on this will be taken at a meeting of the full county council on 9 February.
  • A presentation was given on the planned housing and business development proposals at the former Radio Station site on the eastern side of Rugby.
  • A presentation was given on the role and work of the Warwickshire Probation Service and the Community Payback initiative. This is the scheme whereby unpaid work is undertaken by convicted offenders in order to make the community a better place to live. It was reported that 60,997 hours of unpaid work had been carried out by offenders throughout Warwickshire during 2008. This may be something that the parish council looks at utilising locally to help improve the look of the area, eg. by undertaking litter picks.
  • The Rugby Community Safety Partnership gave a presentation with advice and guidance for protecting yourself and your family from being the victim of crime, safeguarding your property and building safer communities. I collected a number of 'goodie-bags' containing helpful tips and advice (and a few free gifts!) which I'll look to hand out at the next surgery at Barnacle Village Hall. If you want a bag for yourself, leave me a message or let me know the next time you see me.
  • A regular update was given by Warwickshire Police. There had been 30 incidents in Shilton and Barnacle that had been reported to the police in the three months September - November. There was no further breakdown of what these 30 incidents actually were, although the police did undertake to have this more detailed information available at future meetings. They also highlighted the new online Crime Mapper service, which provides information on reported crime levels for the county, borough or ward areas. If anyone is interested in seeing the actual levels of crime in our area, this website is well worth a look. (And you give you a headstart, I can tell you that there were two burglaries, no robberies, five vehicle crimes, one incident of violent crime, and seven instances of anti-social behaviour in the Fosse ward during October).

Overall, it was a very interesting meeting. If it sounds like it's your sort of thing, then come along to the next meeting on Tuesday 23 March at 7.30pm at Shilton Village Hall.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Free PCs for Community and Voluntary Organisations

Warwickshire County Council has 100 recycled computers to give away free to community and voluntary organisations throughout the county.

I've reproduced that press release from the county council for anyone who may be interested in acquiring one of the PCs for their organisation:
Warwickshire County Council has 100 recycled computers available FREE to community or voluntary organisations within Warwickshire. Applications are invited by 5.00pm on Friday 18 December 2009.

There are up to two computers available per organisation. Each computer package will consist of a Dell Gx240 desktop computer, with a Pentium 4 1.5GHz processor and 256Mb memory.

It will include a monitor, keyboard and mouse, plus OpenOffice 2.0 software. Modems are also available if required. A three-month warranty is offered with each computer, though no on-going support or maintenance will be available. Laptops may be available.

For further details click here.

Sarah James
Grants Officer
Environment and Economy Directorate
Warwickshire County Council

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Would You Pay More?

Would you be prepared to pay more Council Tax to Shilton Parish Council to receive a higher standard of local services? This was one of the issues discussed at the November meeting of the parish council.

All of the local government services that Shilton and Barnacle receive are provided by either Warwickshire County Council, Rugby Borough Council or Shilton Parish Council. The costs of the services provided by the county and borough councils are funded partly by the Council Tax that each household pays, but primarily from central government grant (which in turn, of course, is paid for out of general taxation). The parish council is unique in that all of its income (except for a small amount gained from the fees and charges that it levies for things like burials in the Church Road cemetery) comes from the Council Tax.

The services that each tier of council provides is clearly laid down and specified in law, eg. the county council provides social services and education; the borough council empties the bins and runs leisure centres; the parish council provides street lighting and the aforementioned cemetery. However, some parish councils, unhappy at the services provided in their local area by their bigger brothers, are now beginning to look at doing it themselves where they think they can provide better services than those that they currently receive.

This can be done primarily in one of two different ways:

  • the county/borough council already provides the service, but the parish council thinks that it can do the job better. This could relate to litter picking (borough council job) when the parish thinks that taking over responsibility for its own, more local, area would result in a better service. The borough could delegate the responsibility (and hopefully the money!) to the parish council, who then takes over job of keeping the streets clear of litter.

  • the county/borough provides a service, but the parish council agrees to pay the county/borough extra money if it provides an enhanced service. This is sometimes seen with grass cutting, where the borough council may only cut the grassed areas in a village, say, eight times a year, and then the parish council pays the borough an amount of money to cut it an extra three times.
The key issue in either of these situations is that the public is likely to end up paying extra money to their councils to get a better public service than they would otherwise receive.

So are people prepared to pay more, to get better? Critics argue that the Council Tax payer ends up paying twice for a service that should be properly done in the first place. Proponents will say that you get what you pay for, and you can get better if you're prepared to pay more.

At the last parish council meeting, we received notice from Warwickshire County Council of the gritting programme for the forthcoming winter period. I happen to think that the villages are well served by the gritting programme we receive. However, despite our continued protests, the one through road that will not be gritted is Shilton Lane (from its junction with Lower Road to the Coventry boundary at Lentons Lane).

Should this be gritted? Yes, especially for the cars travelling at speed from the Coventry direction into our area. Will it be gritted? No. So the parish council agreed to ask the county if they would grit it if we paid them the cost of doing so.

This doesn't mean that it's going to happen (and certainly not in time for this winter). The county council have got to agree to do it, they've got to tell us how much it will cost, and we've got to agree whether or not we want to pay this in order to get the enhanced service that we would otherwise not receive. But it's a good example of where ambitious parish councils can make a real difference to the lives of its residents (assuming of course, that its residents are happy to pay the price!).

If you have an opinion on this issue, leave me a comment below.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Temporary Road Closure - Shilton Lane

The parish council has received notification that Shilton Lane will be closed to traffic for one day on Wednesday 2 December whilst Warwickshire County Council undertake highway works.

The diversion for motorists affected by the closure is via Lentons Lane, Coventry Road, Top Road and Lower Road (and vice versa).

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Parish Plans and the Customer and Partnerships Committee

Last Thursday evening I attended a meeting of Rugby Borough Council's Customer and Partnerships Committee in Church Lawford.

The meeting was being held as part of that committee's review of the effectiveness of Parish Plans. A Parish Plan is a document produced by a community (normally through the parish council) that sets out how the people who live in the area want it to develop in the future. The plan will also set out the action that is needed to achieve this.

The Customer and Partnerships Committee is looking into how the borough council responds to Parish Plans, what could be done to encourage the preparation of plans in those parishes currently without them, and how the monitoring and on-going development of plans is carried out. The purpose of this particular meeting was to gather evidence from parish councils on these matters, which it would consider at its next meeting in December.

Of the 39 parish areas in the borough of Rugby, 11 had produced Parish Plans, and one (Shilton!) has one in production.

A number of parish councils were represented at the meeting, almost all of whom had produced a Parish Plan. The area of biggest contention seemed to relate to the extent to which the local planning authority (ie. Rugby Borough Council) would take into account planning policies and objectives contained within Parish Plans that were contrary to national planning guidance when it was considering local planning applications. Somewhat unhelpfully, the Warwickshire Rural Community Council said that Parish Plan policies should be taken account of, and Rugby's planning department said that they wouldn't be! This only confirms my long held view that the primary job of council planning departments is to apply national planning guidance, rather than show any significant local discretion in determining what should, and shouldn't, be approved (but that's a blog for another day!).

Addressing the committee, I made the point that that each community (and its parish council) faced their own particular challenges and had differing capacity to meet those challenges, and this would be reflected in the scope and ambition contained within its own Parish Plan. I hoped that Rugby would recognise this in the flexible way they supported the objectives of each plan, seeing that small scale progress can have as positive an influence on the community as more ambitious projects. I shall let you know what the final report says.

These sorts of meetings prove a good chance to hear about the work that neighbouring parish councils are doing, which in turn provides the motivation and challenge to achieve more with our own parish council.

Friday, 13 November 2009

So You Want to Be a Councillor?

Elections for 16 of the 47 seats on Rugby Borough Council (including one in Fosse ward) may still be 174 days away, but a seminar is being held later in the month for local residents who may be thinking about standing for election on 6 May next year.

The event, to be held on the evening of Thursday 26 November, will provide more information of what being a local borough councillor entails, the skills required, and the sorts of issues that a councillor gets involved in. Anyone considering standing for election to the Town Hall next year should seriously consider taking advantage of the event to find out more about what's involved.

I've reproduced the press release from the borough council for your information:

People interested in finding out about becoming a local councillor are being invited to attend a special seminar being held in the Town Hall later this month.

The 'warts and all' look at the lives of councillors will take people through the challenges faced by modern councillors in representing the community on the borough council.

The event's aim is to encourage people who may have previously thought they could not be a prospective candidate for whatever reason, to perhaps reconsider.

The programme for the evening will cover various aspects involved in being a local councillor including the responsibilities of the council and the role of the councillor, the skills that are required to execute the role and the time commitment needed to carry out the work.

The event will also offer a question time session with current councillors and is being held at 7.00pm on Thursday 26 November in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall.

For further information or to register your interest, contact Steve Garrison, Democratic Services Manager,on (01788) 533521.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Rugby Rural Link Minibus Under Threat

Perhaps the local bus services have been that poor for that long, people have given up even thinking of using public transport to get about. I'm not sure what else could explain the woeful use of the Rugby Rural Link minibus service.

I blogged back in July about the launch of a new minibus service in the Shilton and Barnacle area for people who had difficulty accessing existing bus services and needed to get to the local shops. The minibus is jointly funded by Rugby Borough Council and Warwickshire County Council, operated by the Warwickshire Community and Voluntary Action Volunteer Centre and for £2 per person each way (£1 for concessionary pass holders) will take local residents to a supermarket in Walsgrave. The minibus operates across the whole of Rugby borough, and serves our patch on Mondays.

At Tuesday's parish council meeting, Councillor Neil Campbell reported that in its first six months of operation, just 13 people had registered to use the service, of which only five had actually ever used it. Needless to say, Rugby are questioning whether funding a bus service for five people represents value for money. And with all councils having to look closely at what they spend their budgets on, this situation is not going to be allowed to carry on indefinitely.

So it's "use it or lose it" time folks. If you've ever thought about catching the bus to the shops on a Monday, register yourself on (01788) 539572 and help keep the service alive before it becomes something else 'that we used to have'.

Keep an eye out for more on this issue in the next edition of the BASIS magazine.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

WALC AGM - 29 October

Last Thursday night, I attended the 2009/10 AGM of the Warwickshire and West Midlands Association of Local Councils (WALC) in Warwick.

Representatives from more than 50 of the town and parish councils in Warwickshire met in Shire Hall to elect the officers and county committee of WALC for the forthcoming year. But the most interesting part of the evening was the guest speaker, Councillor Hazel Williams, Vice-Chairman of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).

Councillor Williams spoke of the new programmes that were being developed in partnership with NALC to further enhance and promote the role of parish councils, including new powers to create parish councils in areas where they did not currently exist, the promotion of the Quality Parish Council scheme, and the devolution of greater powers to parish councils.

Councillor Williams considered that all three main political parties were looking to introduce more localism into decision making - effectively taking powers away from the government in Westminster and giving it to local people to decide matters for themselves. I support this in principle, but expressed my concern that the talk was increasingly of delegating powers to "the community", rather than to town and parish councils. The tier of government closest to the public will only be taken more seriously when it is given greater responsibilities. I remain sceptical that any serious and effective delegation of responsibility can be given to the public in general (despite what the political parties say), not least because there is no mechanism with which to administer that responsibility. Parish councils are already here and need to be ready to step up to the challenge.

NALC shares this view and is lobbying the political parties ahead of the forthcoming general election to get them to commit to empowering local councils with more powers. In support of this, a 'Manifesto to the Political Parties on the Future of Local Councils' has been produced by NALC which it wishes all political parties to sign up to. The maifesto includes pledges to:
  • recognise local councils as the first tier of local government and the grassroots of our democracy,
  • ensure that local councils are represented on regional and county level strategic bodies,
  • establish local councils throughout all areas of England,
  • ensure that local councils are statutory consultees on all matters affecting their area,
  • increase funding to improve the capacity and effectiveness of local councils,
  • introduce a volunteering programme for 11 - 16 year olds with local councils as part of the citizen curriculum.

Friday, 30 October 2009

The Power of the Blog

I enjoyed this story doing the rounds in the media today about goings on in Somerset. It seems the councillors of Somerton Town Council could take no more of the sniping of a local blogger - and resigned en masse from the council in protest!

Local resident Niall Connelly has been writing on his
'Muck & Brass' blog since 2006 about what he saw as secrecy and incompetence within the town council. But it all got too much for 11 of the 15 councillors at last Tuesday's council meeting, announcing their resignations mid-meeting and promptly walking out there and then. The town council is now suspended, the remaining four councillors being too few to legally conduct any business. South Somerset District Council now has to organise a by-election to find 11 new councillors to fill the vacancies.

Mr Connelly claims this as a victory for people power; an ex-councillor calls him "vindictive", and his supporters no better than "sheep"!

For me, it demonstrates the increasing power that the internet and blogging offers people to share their views with a wider audience. And if that means criticising the local parish council, then so be it. I can't help feeling a twinge of envy that so many people in Somerton care what their local council is getting up to!

Plenty more to read about this in the
Guardian, Independent and Times.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Public Meeting - Proposed Closure of Brinklow Fire Station

Last night I attended a public meeting in Monks Kirby arranged by the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service for local residents to comment on the Improvement Plan that was being developed with the aim of improving the fire and rescue service provided to the residents of Warwickshire and to re-use the resources available in a more effective way.

Attendance at the meeting included
Chief Fire Officer Graeme Smith (who gave a presentation on the Improvement Plan proposals) and Councillor Richard Hobbs, Warwickshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Community Safety.

The proposal that has gained the most public attention is the plan to reduce the number of fire stations in Warwickshire from 19 to 12, resulting in seven existing stations closing. The public meeting last night focused primarily on the proposals for the
Brinklow fire station, one of those earmarked for closure.

As you might have imagined, it was a lively meeting with almost everyone in attendance opposed to the closure plans. I had attended with a somewhat open mind (unlike many of the more shrill voices being heard), as I genuinely did not think the Chief Fire Officer wished to put lives at risk, and nor did he wish to run down his service in order to save money. But listening to the debate left me more certain that the closure of many (but perhaps not all) of the seven stations due for closure was not, at this moment, necessary in order to introduce the many other good aspects of the Improvement Plan that we could all find favour with.

A number of the points made on the night that deserve further consideration included:

  • would a more remotely-based fire station be operated by firefighters without the local knowledge of the rural areas in the county (and their peculiarities)?
  • could the Improvement Plan be implemented in a phased approach, with station closures as a very last option, rather than the all-or-nothing approach proposed?
  • concern that the proposals would result in an overall reduction in the number of firefighters working in the county.
Fires in Barnacle and Shilton are tackled in the first instance by fire engines from Bedworth fire station (Brinklow, Nuneaton and Rugby stations provide backup if required), so the proposals being discussed last night would not have quite the effect that the proposal to close the Bedworth fire station and amalgamate it with Nuneaton could have. Nonetheless, it was an interesting meeting that demonstrated the depth of public feeling against proposals that are being interpreted as placing people and property at a greater risk than at the moment.

Councillor Hobbs did confirm though that the final decision to adopt or reject the plan will be taken by all 62 county councillors at a full council meeting, rather than just by the Cabinet as originally planned. This is significant in that it means that local county councillor
Phillip Morris-Jones will have a vote on the matter - and he made his opposition to the plans very clear at the parish council meeting on 6 October.

The consultation period runs until 8 December, with further information available
here. A report on last night's meeting by the Rugby Advertiser, including video footage from the meeting, can also be viewed here.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service Consultation

You may have seen reported in the local media recently that Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service are currently conducting a public consultation exercise on proposals to review the number of fire stations across the county.

The draft proposals, if implemented, would see the current 19 fire stations throughout Warwickshire reduced to 12. For Barnacle and Shilton, this is particularly relevant because the plans include proposals to close both stations in Nuneaton and Bedworth and combine them into a joint fire station to be located between the two towns, as well as closing the Brinklow fire station.

At its meeting on Tuesday night, the parish council considered its views on these proposals, and expressed concern that they did not appear to be an improvement over the services currently provided. The combined Nuneaton/Bedworth fire station would be further away for residents of Barnacle and Shilton, resulting in a longer wait for fire appliances to arrive in the villages. This would be made worse by the withdrawal of the fire station in Brinklow. There was also concern that the proposals did not take proper account of the likelihood of the significant new housebuilding that will take place in the borough, as well as new industrial developments such as Ansty Park.

There is a public meeting to discuss the proposals (particularly in respect of the planned closure of Brinklow fire station) taking place on Monday 12 October, starting at 7.00pm at
The Revel Primary School, Brockhurst Lane, Monks Kirby. I shall be at the meeting and will report back on the issues discussed. A similar meeting in the Bedworth area was held on Wednesday 8 October, and a report on the proceedings by the Coventry Telegraph can be read here.

Full information on all of the proposals, as well as an opportunity to respond to the consultation, can be found on the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue website. Submissions must be received by 8 December.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Planning Application Decision

Rugby Borough Council has reached the following decision on a planning application submitted in July:

  • Plots 4 & 5, Top Park, Top Road, Barnacle - variation to existing temporary planning permission to change the permitted occupancy of plots 4 and 5 - approved.

The full decision on this application can be viewed here.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Lower Road Telephone Box

We're all familiar with BT's famous red telephone box (or the Gilbert Scott designed 'K6' kiosk, to give it it's proper name). First installed in 1936 to celebrate King George V's silver jubilee, there were once 70,000 of them all across the UK.

Unfortunately, the almost universal ownership of mobile phones today means that the red telephone box is used less and less, and when BT is looking to cut costs, the telephone kiosk is frequently on the hit list. It is claimed that currently only 40% of public telephone boxes generate enough usage to cover their operational costs.

BT have recently contacted the parish council to say that the telephone box in Lower Road, Barnacle is to be scrapped because it has not generated enough use to justify its retention. I must admit to being quite surprised to find out that it had been used 90 times in the last 12 months (I would've guessed at a tenth of that figure), but it seems that two calls a week just isn't enough for BT, and the telephone is going to go.

However, it is possible for parish councils to take over the ownership of decommissioned telephone boxes (without, I stress, any working equipment inside). There remains a huge fondness for the traditional red telephone box, and when villages up and down the country are losing their amenities (and often with that, their character), Shilton Parish Council agreed at its last meeting to take over the ownership of the telephone box in Lower Road and maintain it as a traditional feature of the village street scene.

It won't cost much: BT will sell us the telephone box for £1 and it'll cost around £17 per year in electricity to light it up at night. The process of adoption isn't straightforward (it never is!) with Rugby Borough Council, Ofcom and E.ON all becoming involved, but I'll keep people posted on here as to progress, including when the parish council formally takes over the ownership of it.

It'll then join the 350 other red telephone boxes across the UK that have been taken over by local communities to preserve this iconic symbol of British life. And if anyone has any ideas as to what to do with the inside of an empty telephone box, do get in touch!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Planning Application Consultation and Decisions

This week, a planning application has been submitted by:

  • The Stables, Wood Lane, Shilton - erection of an agricultural storage building.

Full details of the application (including site plans) can be found by clicking here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Friday 2 October.

Rugby Borough Council has also reached the following decisions on planning applications submitted over the past few weeks:

  • The Old School House, Church Road, Shilton - erection of a two storey link extension, erection of a two storey rear extension and provision of a first floor to the linked outbuilding - approved.
  • Barnacle House Farm, Top Road, Barnacle - outline permission for the erection of an agricultural worker's dwelling - refused.
  • Weavers Cottage, Lower Road, Barnacle - erection of a first floor rear extension - approved.

The full decisions on these applications can be viewed here, here and here.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Planning Application Consultation

This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
  • Plots 4 & 5, Top Park, Top Road, Barnacle - variation to existing temporary planning permission to change the permitted occupancy of plots 4 and 5.

Full details of the application (including site plans) can be found by clicking here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Friday 4 September.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Death by Consultation

People tend to view the purpose of parish councils as either one of two things. They're there to deliver important services to the local area to be paid for from the Council Tax, or they are to be the advocate for local residents and should express the parish's wants and needs to borough councils, county councils and beyond. From my experience, Shilton Parish Council does plenty of the latter and a bit of the former (although I sometimes wish it was the other way round).

In an effort to be seen to involve the public in important decision-making, the parish council can be inundated with consultation documents seeking our opinion, on behalf of local residents. This does, of course, mean that you have to have an opinion on things that probably the week before you had no opinion on at all, and preparation for council meetings becomes an exercise in cramming in order to have a vague idea about what it is we're discussing. The upshot is that you soon become a bar room expert on things you never thought you would (although whether my life is enhanced to any degree by a working knowledge of Regional Spatial Strategies is something to consider at another time).

The parish council meeting last week was a good example of this. We were asked to give an opinion on:
  • West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy Phase Three Revisions Options
  • Warwickshire County Council Local Transport Plan 3: Transport Goals and Issues
  • Warwickshire County Council Community Emergency Plans
  • Rugby Borough Council Proposed Submission Core Strategy Development Plan
  • Coventry City Council Core Strategy Development Plan
  • Coventry City Council Rights of Way Improvement Plan
  • two local planning applications

Different opinions are discussed, responses agreed and sent off, and the collective views of the people of Shilton and Barnacle are feed into the strategies and plans that will affect region, county, borough and parish for the next ten years.

Does any of it make any difference? The cynic will say no, but very occasionally a policy gets tweaked, or a plan slightly amended, and just for the briefest of moments it all seems worthwhile.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Suggested Bookmarks

If you're reading this blog on anything like a regular basis, you'll no doubt be quite happy to source your information online. And to help with that, I aim to periodically share links to website, forums, blogs and other online content that may be of interest.

To start things off, Warwickshire County Council are running a trial channel on YouTube where they will post video footage of news stories about council matters across Warwickshire. The first (and to date only) post is a story about the construction of the Rugby Western Relief Road, which can be viewed below:

The Warwickshire County Council YouTube channel is linked here.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Planning Application Consultation

This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
  • Weavers Cottage, Lower Road, Barnacle - erection of a first floor rear extension.

Full details of the application (including site plans) can be found by clicking here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Monday 10 August.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Rugby Draft Core Strategy

Back in May, I blogged about the process that was being undertaken by Rugby Borough Council to identify the land required to meet the accommodation needs of gypsy and traveller families in the borough. You may recall that an additional 60 pitches were to be needed for the traveller population wanting to live in the borough between now and 2012. Twelve of these pitches had already been provided near to Ryton-on-Dunsmore, and therefore land for the remaining 48 pitches still needed to be found.

The latest stage of the process that will eventually lead to the identification of land in the borough that is suitable for the development of gypsy and traveller sites has been Rugby Borough Council's approval of its draft Core Strategy at a meeting on 29 June. The Core Strategy sets out Rugby's vision for how land in the borough will be used up to 2026, particularly relating to new housing and employment development. And as part of the need to identify land for housing development, the Core Strategy sets out a criteria against which to judge applications for gypsy and traveller sites needed to meet the demand for the extra 48 pitches.

The criteria says:

Where there is identified need, planning permission will be granted for gypsy and traveller sites provided that the following criteria is clearly satisfied:
  • the site is within or adjacent to the boundary of an urban area; or
  • the site is within or adjacent to the settlement boundary of a Main Rural Settlement; and
  • is located within a reasonable distance (up to 2km walking distance) of local services and facilities including a convenience store, a GP and a school;
  • the site is cumulatively appropriate and proportionate in scale to the nearest settlements, its local services and infrastructure;
  • vehicular access onto the site via the public highway is appropriate;
  • the site is capable of sympathetic assimilation into the surroundings;
  • if screening is required, suitable landscaping and planting will be provided and maintained by the developer; and
  • development of the site will not cause unacceptable nuisance to existing neighbours by virtue of noise and other disturbance caused by movement of vehicles to and from the site.

If the site is located within the Green Belt, the application must demonstrate that all reasonable alternatives have been explored before the application is submitted.

However, the approval process that needs to be followed before this criteria actually becomes borough council policy is long-winded and it is not expected that it will become a 'finalised' Core Strategy until June 2010, when it will receive Central Government approval. After that date, the borough council intends to apply the criteria in order to identify particular locations within the borough that would meet all of the conditions specified. This will be done through a Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocations Development Plan Document (remember that name!), which Rugby are currently expecting to be finalised by summer 2011. This plan will identify, on a map, the likely gypsy and traveller sites that Rugby would give planning permission for in order to meet the need to provide the additional 48 pitches in the borough by 2012.

Frustrations remain about how long the whole process is taking, but this is the way it has been decided it has to be done. I'll update on here as and when progress is made. In the meantime, you can read the whole of the draft Core Strategy document here (page 55 sets out the site criteria), and more information on the process from Rugby's own website here.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Planning Application Consultation

This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
  • The Old School House, Church Road, Shilton - erection of a two storey link extension from the rear of the main dwelling, and erection of a two storey rear extension and provision of a first floor to the linked outbuilding, including dormer windows and integral garage provision.

Full details of the application (including site plans) can be found by clicking here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Friday 7 August.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Wood Lane Speed Limit Alterations

A number of people have been concerned for some time at the speed limit along Wood Lane (between Shilton and Barnacle) and particularly the 60mph limit at the junction with Charles Lakin Close.

In response to these concerns, Warwickshire County Council are proposing to reduce the speed limit along Wood Lane so that it will be 30mph along the whole length of the road, between the junctions with Bulkington Road and Lower Road.

The improvement works (which seem to me to involve new speed limit signs and reminders along the route of Wood Lane) will take place in the autumn and cost a total of £6,000.

A plan showing the current speed limit along the road can be viewed here, and a plan showing the new proposals for the road can be viewed here.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Rugby Rural Link Minibus Service

Back in April, I blogged about proposals to introduce a new 'Rural Link' bus service for residents living in the rural areas of the borough who had difficulty accessing transport and needed to get to shops and essential services.

The Parish Council has now received some further information about this new scheme. Called the 'Rugby Rural Link' the service will operate in the Shilton and Barnacle area on Mondays between 9.30am for collection and 2.30pm for return, to allow up to two hours shopping in a "Walsgrave supermarket" (which, I assume, must be either
Tesco or Asda).

The service is open to all local residents to use, but before it is used for the first time, residents must register with the
Warwickshire Community and Voluntary Action Volunteer Centre (who will run the service) on (01788) 539572. The cost of the journey is £2 each way per person, although holders of a concessionary bus pass will pay only £1 each way per person.

The introduction of this new service is a welcome addition to the very limited public transport that's available to local residents, especially in Barnacle. The idea for the service arose out of a scrutiny review carried out by
Rugby Borough Council following their decision to withdraw the taxi tokens that used to be issued to senior citizens in villages that did not have a significant local bus service. A copy of the report on the review of the travel tokens scheme can be read here, and further information from Rugby Borough Council on the Rural Link minibus service can be found here.

These services tend to operate on a "use it or lose it" basis, and therefore anyone who welcomes the benefit of an additional weekly bus service to a local supermarket should look to take advantage of the service to ensure that is retained.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

What the Public Wants ..... Apparently!

As a parish councillor, you do get to see so many reports and bits of information. Much of it is irrelevant, or highly technical, but every so often there's something that passes in front of you that warrants a second look. I'm not sure if this is one of those occasions, but I'll post it on here and let you make your own mind up.

A report has been circulated by the Warwickshire and West Midlands Association of Local Councils called Warwickshire Place Survey and Local Residents' Priorities. Apparently, this is a survey carried out twice a year of a cross section of the residents of Warwickshire. It doesn't say who has carried out the survey, but I suspect that it's on behalf of Warwickshire County Council.

The survey asks just one question:

"Thinking about your local area within 15 to 20 minutes walking distance from your home, which are the things that you think most need improving?"

The interviewee is then given a choice of 21 different answers to chose from. The report groups the answers given for the different areas of Warwickshire, and locally, Shilton and Barnacle are grouped within the 'Rugby Rural' locality. The top five answers given (and the percentage of respondees who gave that answer) for this area were:

  1. Activities for Teenagers (49%)
  2. Road and Pavement Repairs (37%)
  3. Level of Traffic Congestion (37%)
  4. Public Transport (32%)
  5. Level of Crime (30%)

Across Warwickshire as a whole, the top five answers were:

  1. Activities for Teenagers (49%)
  2. Road and Pavement Repairs (38%)
  3. Level of Traffic Congestion (35%)
  4. Level of Crime (32%)
  5. Clean Streets (23%)

I won't imagine that any of these responses come as much of a surprise. Perhaps one interesting outcome of the survey was that residents living within the rural Rugby area identified improvements in public transport provision as having a greater importance than across Warwickshire as a whole. The lack of rural public transport will be particularly felt more keenly by senior citizens in receipt of a concessionary bus pass, but with little or any bus services on which to use it (something I blogged about back in May here).

The next residents' survey will be in six months time. If I get to see the outcome of that, I'll post the results on here and we can see if the public's priorities have shifted at all.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Fosse Division Community Forum - 30 June

Last Tuesday night I attended the Fosse Division Community Forum, held in Monks Kirby. This is a quarterly meeting, open to all members of the public, to discuss issued affecting residents in the Fosse division (which includes Shilton and Barnacle). Representatives from Warwickshire County Council, Rugby Borough Council and the Warwickshire Police Safer Neighbourhoods team were in attendance to discuss issues and answer questions on any matters that were raised.

There was a lot of interest from those present in the problem of speeding in the Fosse area, and numerous calls for the Police to take action. At each meeting, the Police ask those present to suggest policing priorities that they would like to be looked at more closely during the next three months. At the last meeting in March, a resident from Barnacle who had turned up to the meeting suggested that speeding through the village was a problem that needed addressing. The Police therefore took this up as a local priority and reported back on Tuesday night on the outcome of their work.

They reported that during the last three months, they had undertaken a number of high visibility foot patrols through Barnacle, as well as driving through in a marked police car. In addition, a marked police car had been parked at the junction of Top Road/Chapel Lane over a weekend to act as a deterrent to vehicles that may be speeding through the village. Whilst they considered their work to have been useful, they did not identify a significant enough speeding problem to warrant further specific action. I couldn't help pointing out that the rather old looking marked police car, parked up on Top Green (I'm sure many of you saw it over a weekend a while back), was unfortunately left in the one place in the village where cars had to slow down anyway because of the tight bend at Top Road/Lower Road. It may have had a greater effect had it been parked at either of the entrances into the village. Next time, perhaps?!

The Police also provided a number of other interesting snippets of information during the course of the meeting, including:

  • a total of 206 drain covers have now been stolen from roads in the Fosse area, at a cost of £30,900 to replace them all - and still no-one has been caught.
  • between December 2008 - March 2009, reported incidents of crime in Barnacle were: burglary - 0, criminal damage - 0, rowdy behaviour - 2, vehicle crime - 0. They had also received a total of 28 telephone calls so far this year from Barnacle residents, concerning the full range of matters that one might have cause to call the police for.
  • two men have been arrested in connection with a high value fraud in Barnacle. They have also been detained for the offence of money laundering, and are currently on police bail whilst enquiries continued.

Finally, in seeking local policing priorities for the next three months, I suggested that the speeding problem along Church Road, as it enters Shilton from the Ansty direction, should be something the Police could look into further. They agreed to do this and will report back to the next Community Forum meeting on 15 September.

Despite it being a very warm night, it was a useful meeting to go to. If you want the Police or the county/borough councils to look into something that is important to you, I would very much recommend that these are the meetings to go to in order to have your say. Further information on these meetings is available here.

Planning Application Consultation

Another new planning application has been submitted during last week for:
  • Barnacle House Farm, Top Road, Barnacle - outline permission for the erection of an agricultural worker's dwelling.

Full details of the application (including detailed site plans) can be found by clicking here. Any comments on the planning application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Thursday 23 July.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

WALC Rugby Branch Meeting - 25 June

Next Thursday I shall be attending a joint meeting of the Rugby branch of the Warwickshire & West Midlands Association of Local Councils and Rugby Borough Council at the Town Hall in Rugby. I've blogged before about the Rugby branch meetings of WALC, and once a year it holds a joint meeting with representatives from Rugby Borough Council to discuss areas of common interest.

The one item on the agenda that'll be of particular interest is a discussion concerning the options consultation on the Regional Spatial Strategy Phase Three Revision. I know you're probably thinking how can that possibly be interesting, but bear with me! First, an explanation of what a 'Regional Spatial Strategy' is.

Each of the eight English regions (not including London) must produce a Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) that sets out how the land in each region will be used to make it a better place in which to live and work. Therefore, amongst other things, the RSS will indicate the amount of housing that should be built in different parts of the West Midlands, which city and town centres should be targeted for growth, in which areas major new employment sites are needed, how the environment can be improved, and where the priorities for transport investment are. The West Midlands RSS is being prepared by the West Midlands Regional Assembly.

The West Midlands RSS was originally published in 2004, and is now being revised in three phases: phase 1 concentrated on the Black Country part of the region; phase 2 considered housing, employment, transport and waste; and phase 3 will look at rural services (including the provision for gypsies and travellers).

So, put (reasonably) simply, the Regional Spatial Strategy Phase Three Revision will look again at the policies and options concerning rural services and make recommendations to the Government as to what should be included in the finalised West Midlands RSS, which will then become the responsibility of the local councils in the region to implement.

A significant part of the Phase 3 revision looks at the provision of adequate sites for gypsies and travellers, and this is something that has exercised Rugby Borough Council (and other councils) locally for a number of years now. Thursday's meeting will be interesting to see what their approach is to responding to the consultation exercise and the solutions they think are needed to provide the traveller accommodation that is undoubtedly needed, in the right locations that are supported by all sections of the community.

I'll blog again after the meeting, but if you want to read more, the RSS Phase Three consultation document is available here. The section relating to gypsies and travellers is found on page 25, with the consultation questions on page 45. The public consultation runs from 29 June - 14 August.

One final thought - the Regional Spatial Strategy may be considered necessary by many to plan the medium term land use needs of the region, but it's not loved by all. Just listen to what David Cameron says he'll do with Spatial Strategies should a Conservative government be elected at the next general election (fast forward to the question he's asked after 43 seconds of the video linked

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Planning Application Consultation

This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
  • High Tor, Shilton Road, Shilton - erection of a single storey side extension, including provision of a replacement roof over the whole bungalow.

Full details of the application (including detailed site plans) can be found by clicking here. All comments must be received by Wednesday 24 June.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Warwickshire County Council Election Results

Voting to elect the 62 councillors to sit on Warwickshire County Council for the next four years took place on Thursday, and after the votes were counted the electors of Fosse ward did indeed vote "Morris-Jones for the County"! Phillip Morris-Jones was re-elected as county councillor for the area for another four years, returning to Shire Hall with an increased majority.

Across the whole of Warwickshire, the Conservatives won a decisive victory to gain a net of 12 extra seats and take overall control of the council for the first time since 1989, ending the day with a 16 seat majority over all other parties. A net gain of one seat for the Liberal Democrats, coupled with the loss of 13 seats for Labour, means that opposition in the Council Chamber will now be lead by the Lib Dems.

The political balance of power for the next four years will be:

The full result of the Fosse division election was:

  • Phillip Morris-Jones (Conservative) - 1,761
  • David Elson (Liberal Democrat) - 368
  • Robert Bevin (Labour) - 342
  • Paul Sandison (Green) - 322

Friday, 29 May 2009

Planning Application Consultation

One of the benefits of the blog is that information can be quickly and easily shared with large numbers of people, and it is for this reason that I'd intended to post details on here of new planning applications in Barnacle and Shilton that members of the public may want to comment on.

Planning permission is given by Rugby Borough Council, but Shilton Parish Council and nearby residents affected by any planning application do get the opportunity to give their views in support or opposition to the application. Timescales for responding are normally quite tight, so if you want to comment you have to act quickly. Fortunately, Rugby make it reasonably easy to do this online.

This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
  • St Andrew's Church, Shilton - erection of a single story rear extension.

Full details of the application (including detailed site plans) can be found by clicking here. All comments must be received by Thursday 18 June.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Parish Council Meeting - 2 June

The next Parish Council meeting will be held on Tuesday 2 June at 7.30pm in the Parish Council Room, Church Road, Shilton. Local residents are welcome to attend, and are able to raise any issues of concern to them with the parish councillors at the start of the meeting. The agenda for the meeting is posted on the village noticeboard for information.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Church Road Car Park

One of the best things that the Parish Council has done in recent years has been to convert an area of waste ground in Church Road, Shilton into a public car park. Like many villages throughout the country, a significant number of houses in Shilton were built before the off-road parking needs of residents were a consideration. People therefore had little choice but to leave their cars parked on the road, made worse when friends and family came to visit. This was a particular problem for residents in Church Road, and added to those already caused by cars and lorries speeding into the village from the direction of Ansty.

The car park hasn't come cheap (the Parish Council itself has contributed over £18,000 to the cost of the project from its savings, and other funding has come in the form of grants), but I believe it's made a real improvement to the area, both in providing somewhere for residents to park their cars, and in making the entrance into Shilton safer for through traffic by removing much of the on-street parking that used to occur.

It's therefore disappointing that Rugby Borough Council has seen fit to charge the Parish Council nearly £800 per year in Business Rates for the car park. This is despite Rugby actually owning much of the site itself and leasing it to the Parish Council for a peppercorn rent in recognition of the community value a car park provides. Even the best endeavours of Borough Councillor Neil Campbell have been unable to influence the resolve of Rugby's Finance department to receive the monies they consider now due.

The upshot of this is that the budget for the Parish Council will need to increase by £800 next year just to cover future years' Business Rates for the car park. Given that the entire amount that residents in Barnacle and Shilton pay through the Council Tax towards the Parish Council's spending is only around £15,500 a year, and you can begin to see the effect that this sort of expenditure can have on the Parish Council's finances.

The car park is an asset to the parish, and it was right that money was spent providing for it, but it's a clear lesson that making things better almost always costs money, and we all need to be prepared to pick up the tab when the bills need paying.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Annual Parish Meeting - 20 May

Next Wednesday, 20 May, is the Annual Parish Meeting. This isn't to be confused with the Parish Council AGM, but is a public meeting to which all residents in the parish are invited to discuss local activities and debate current issues in the community. The meetings alternate each year between Shilton and Barnacle, and this year it will be held in Shilton Village Hall, Wood Lane starting at 7.30pm.

The meeting will receive reports from County Councillor Phillip Morris-Jones, Borough Councillor Neil Campbell, Parish Council Chairman Bill King, plus updates from the two village hall committees, the Shilton playing field committee and the BASIS editor.

Further details are available from the agenda posted up in the village noticeboard.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Warwickshire County Council Elections - 4 June - Fosse Ward Candidates

The nomination period has now ended for the upcoming elections to Warwickshire County Council, and four people have put themselves forward hoping to be the county councillor for the Fosse ward for the next four years. The candidates are:

The election will be held on Thursday 4 June.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Parish Council AGM - 12 May

Next Tuesday, 12 May, is the AGM of Shilton Parish Council. The AGM is similar to most of the monthly Parish Council meetings that are held, except that this is also the meeting where councillors will choose the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Parish Council for the next 12 months. As ever, the meeting is open to the public to attend and observe, and starts at 7.30pm in the Parish Council Room, Church Road, Shilton.

The agenda for the meeting includes updates on issues relating to the new village car park in Church Road, traffic issues in Shilton, as well as proposals to plant some new trees in the cemetery, and a copy of the agenda is posted in the village notice board for information.

I am particularly interested in the update from Rugby Borough Council on the introduction of the 'Rural Link' minibus scheme and further information about affordable housing needs in the parish, both of which were discussed at the WALC Rugby Branch meeting I blogged about

Members of the public are also encouraged to raise any issue of interest to themselves that they think the Parish Council might be able to assist with.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Consultation Response - Bus Service Improvements

You may remember that on 22 April I blogged about a consultation exercise being carried out by Warwickshire County Council concerning the future provision of bus services in the county (linked here). The deadline for responses was 5 May, and this evening I emailed my submission to the County Council.

My comments centred on the current subsidised Flexibus service 213, which operates weekly on Tuesday mornings and provides a single there-and-back service to Bedworth town centre via Bulkington. I would suspect that this currently has very low passenger numbers (for a host of different reasons) but I believe there is scope for a more frequent service to attract increased patronage. I have suggested in my response that an additional service, operating towards the end of the week, could encourage more people to switch from cars to public transport, as well as providing a means for people without access to a car to be able to get to shops and services in either Bedworth or Bulkington.

There also needs to be greater local publicity of this bus service to encourage its uptake, and I have pointed out in my response a number of instances where Warwickshire County Council's own travel information literature omits to refer to the existence of the 213 service.

Increasing the use of public transport can be a hard sell to make (most people seeing it as a good thing, but to be used by "other people"), but we must not forget that not everyone has the advantage of enjoying the freedom and flexibility that comes with car ownership. Hopefully, a more frequent local bus service, better publicised, can play its part in connecting Barnacle residents with the local services they need.

I'll post more when I hear the outcome of the review.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

'Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan' Meeting - 29 April

On Wednesday night, I attended a meeting in Church Lawford, arranged by Rugby Borough Council for all the parish councils in the area, to discuss their 'Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan'.

The issue of gypsy and traveller sites in Barnacle and Shilton has a long history and has provoked many strong views. I don't propose to give a history lesson, except to say that of the 14 gypsy and traveller sites in the borough of Rugby, ten are currently located within the Shilton parish area. And of those ten sites, nine have permanent planning permission (or are designated as 'tolerated' by Rugby Borough Council - in effect, the same as having planning permission) and one site has a temporary permission that expires in July 2010.

In an announcement commonly attributed to John Prescott, the Government required all councils across the country to identify the accommodation needs of the gypsy and traveller community in their area (the so-called 'Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment'). Councils were then required to identify where in their area they would be predisposed, in principle, to grant planning permission for sites to house this number of pitches.

Rugby Borough Council's Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment identified that an additional 60 pitches were required to provide for the accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers in the area up to 2012. This was in addition to the pitches already provided for at the 14 existing sites in the borough. Of these 60 new pitches, 12 were already planned to be provided at the Council's Woodside Park site near Ryton-on-Dunsmore. That meant there was land for 48 further pitches that was needed to be identified. And that is what the Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan is currently trying to do.

The purpose of the plan is not to identify the specific land where the sites will be located, but rather to come up with a criteria against which to assess whether a gypsy and traveller site should, or should not, be given planning approval, if applied for. The application of this criteria by the Council's Planning Committee, and the Planning Inspectorate for any subsequent appeal, should give a clear indication of the areas in the borough where sites would be more likely to gain approval, as well as where they would be considered unsuitable and permission refused.

It should also be stressed that Rugby Borough Council will not be building gypsy and traveller sites at any of these locations, nor will they provide any of the 48 additional pitches that are required. It will be for gypsy and traveller families themselves, who wish to set up home in the borough, to seek to purchase land suitable for a site within the areas indicated by the Borough Council in the Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocation Development Plan.

The meeting itself on Wednesday night was a useful event. To its credit, Rugby Borough Council is not seeking to develop a plan that is simply imposed on parishes, and we are being given ample opportunity to have input into the development of the site location criteria. There is a recognition at the Borough Council and amongst the parish councils, that this is an important opportunity to provide for the accommodation needs of the gypsy and traveller community, therefore reducing the future instances of sites being developed in inappropriate locations.

There were no firm proposals arising out of the meeting, and the development of the site criteria and identification of land is an on-going process. There will be a full public consultation once the draft plan is published, including, in the summer, a public meeting in the parish for all residents to come along and have their say. I will keep you posted on this as things develop. The plan itself is expected to be finalised and become 'live' in February 2011. Despite frustrations over how long this process is taking, I am encouraged that the views expressed over many years by the Parish Council, and residents in Barnacle and Shilton, are feeding into this process and are being heard by Rugby Borough Council.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

WALC Rugby Branch Meeting - 28 April

On Tuesday evening I attended the AGM of the Rugby branch of the Warwickshire and West Midlands Association of Local Councils in Pailton. The purpose of WALC is to advise parish councils in Warwickshire and the West Midlands on issues or problems they may be encountering, and to offer a range of services and assistance to local councils, including training seminars and workshops. Each county in England has its own association, and collectively these affiliate to the National Association of Local Councils. The Rugby branch comprises 35 parish councils in the Rugby borough area, and meets usually every 2/3 months to receive updates on current and future issues, and to discuss areas of common interest. Other organisations will also use these meetings to meet with the parish councils collectively and share relevant information. At last night's meeting, discussions with the following guest speakers were held:

  • Simon Warren, Chief Executive of Rugby Borough Council, on how parish councils and the borough council can work more closely together;
  • Phil Ward, Rural Housing Enabler at Warwickshire Rural Community Council, on the role they can play with parishes in helping to providing affordable housing to local residents unable to buy property at an open market value; and
  • Stephen Marks from Rugby Borough Council, on the different types of grants that were available to parish councils to apply for to help fund projects in their area.

There was then a general discussion on a number of different subjects of interest to parish councils. Of particular interest to me were the proposals for the launch of the new 'Rural Link' bus service taking place in May (I'll blog about this in more detail another time because it is of particular interest to people living in Barnacle), and outline details from Warwickshire County Council concerning road signs to discourage lorries from using unsuitable village roads. Again, I will post more about this once I have more information.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Regional Parish Council Conference

Last Wednesday I took the day off work to attend a conference in Coventry for parish councils. The conference was organised by the National Association of Local Councils, the representative organisation for the 8,500 town and parish councils throughout England. NALC provides support and advice to its members, and lobbies the national government to advance and protect the interests of local councils and the communities they represent.

The Coventry event was one of three regional conferences organised by NALC to provide parish councils with the opportunity to discuss government initiatives and their impact on local councils, the relationships between parish, borough and county councils and how they could be improved, and to share examples of good practice undertaken by parish councils that others may learn from. In all, representatives from almost 30 different local councils took part in the day.

There were a number of interesting sessions led by speakers from the
Local Government Association, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Commission for Rural Communities and Buckinghamshire County Council on a range of topics and issues. It was also very useful to network with colleagues and hear of the different approaches that others have taken to similar issues and problems that many parish councils, including Shilton, face. I always find that spending a day amongst people who can demonstrate great examples of where they have improved the services of their own parish council can help to put into perspective the sorts of things that we need to do locally in order to improve the standing of Shilton Parish Council amongst the community were serve.

I shall be reporting back to the parish council on a number of these things at our meetings over the coming months, as well as keeping in touch with colleagues I met during the day.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Warwickshire County Council Elections - 4 June

Elections to determine the 62 councillors who'll make up Warwickshire County Council for the next four years will be held on Thursday 4 June. And although that's still six weeks away, nomination papers for people wishing to stand as candidates in the elections need to be submitted by Thursday 7 May, in just 13 days time. So if you're interested in putting your name forward, you need to act quickly. If you want to know more, further information can be obtained from the County Council by clicking this link.

Barnacle and Shilton come under the Fosse ward, and are currently represented by Phillip Morris-Jones. Elections for the County Council were last held in 2005, when the result was:

Phillip Morris-Jones (Conservative) 1,873
Douglas Hall (Labour) 820
Richard Gunstone (Liberal Democrat) 671

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Consultation - Bus Service Improvements

Warwickshire County Council are looking to improve the bus services that operate within the county, and to do this they are seeking your opinion on the suitability of the buses operating through the area. In particular, they are looking to see if there are areas where there is a demand for additional services that are not currently being met.

Shilton is currently served by bus service 74/75, operated by Stagecoach, between Nuneaton and Coventry. Barnacle's bus services might as well be considered non-existent, with just the service 213 picking up at 11.31am on Tuesdays on its way to Bedworth market and returning at 2.11pm.

If you'd like better, more or different bus services, this is your opportunity to have your say. Responses are needed by Tuesday 5 May to Parish Council Clerk Chris Warburton, or Simi Braich, Warwickshire County Council's Passenger Transport Project Officer. Further information and contact details are available from the village noticeboards.