Friday, 23 December 2011

Neighbourhood Watch Warning and Police Crime Report - November

Warwickshire Police has issued the following alert for people living in Ansty, Brinklow, Shilton and the surrounding areas, following a number of thefts of car number plates:
We would like to make you all aware of vehicle number plates being stolen in Ansty, Brinklow and Shilton locations. Incidents so far have happened on Main Road, Ansty, Coventry Road, Brinklow and Church Road, Shilton.

The incidents have happened over the last four weeks, mainly during the evenings and into the night. On some occasions the number plates have been left nearby when they have been damaged in the process of removal. We are asking for you to be extra vigilant and to report any suspicious activity.
In addition, Warwickshire Police has released its latest crime report setting out incidents it considers are in the public interest that have occurred within Shilton and Barnacle during the last month. Five incidents have been highlighted:
  • Monday 14 November - Theft from a Motor Vehicle - Church Road, Shilton
  • Report that sometime overnight, unknown person/s had taken both front and rear number plates. No CCTV was available, and the crime happened in the car park so house to house enquiries were not undertaken.
  • Wednesday 16 November - Theft of Motor Vehicle - Top Road, Barnacle
  • Report that somebody had been disturbed trying to steal a teleporter/tractor. Units attended and conducted an area search.
  • Thursday 17 November - Theft/Fire/Nuisance - Wood Lane, Shilton
  • Report that sheds had been set alight and that other sheds had been broken into. Units attended and there was on-going work connected with this with the allotment association. No CCTV was available, nor house to house enquiries undertaken.
  • Sunday 20 November - Theft - Wood Lane, Shilton
  • Report that overnight unknown persons had entered a property and taken garden equipment. CCTV and alarms were sounded. Police units attended. Subsequent raids had been undertaken and items had been found linked to this property.
  • Friday 25 November - Theft from Motor Vehicle - Leicester Road, Shilton
  • Report that during the evening unknowns persons had gained entry into a secure vehicle and taken items. House to house enquiries conducted, but there was no CCTV of the incident.
Warwickshire Police has asked that anyone with any information about these crimes should call them on (01788) 541111.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Planning Applications Consultation and Decision

A new planning application has been submitted by:
  • 38 Bulkington Road, Shilton - extensions and alterations to dwelling to include alteration to the roof, two storey extension to the rear (to replace existing outbuildings) and elevational alterations.
Full details of the application (including site plans) can be viewed here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Friday 16 December.

View Larger Map

Rugby Borough Council has also reached the following decision on a planning application submitted in November:
  • Wolf Systems Ltd, Shilton Industrial Estate, Bulkington Road, Shilton - installation of solar panels on the roof of unit E - approved.
The full decision on this application can be viewed here.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

WALC Rugby Branch Meeting - 30 November

Last Tuesday I chaired the Rugby branch meeting of the Warwickshire and West Midlands Association of Local Councils (WALC) in Wolvey. This is the quarterly meeting of all of the parish councils in the Rugby borough area where we discuss recent developments and shared matters of interest.

There are always invited speakers to give a presentation on a topic of interest to parish councils, and at this meeting the focus was on highways and transportation. Roger Newham from Warwickshire County Council spoke about the range of services that the county's highways and transportation department provided, including highways maintenance, subsidising bus services (especially in the rural area) that would otherwise not be operated because they were not commercially viable, modelling projected traffic flows within the county's towns, encouraging sustainable travel options (eg. cycling and walking) and maintaining the county's network of bridleways and footpaths.

Representatives from parish councils asked a number of questions, particularly concerning the provision of speed cameras in areas where there was considered to be speed-related problems but where no cameras were currently located. Unfortunately, Roger Newham explained that the funding allocated to speed cameras within Warwickshire had reduced in recent years from £1.8m to £250,000 per year, which effectively meant that it was not possible to site cameras in any new locations in the county as the entire budget was used to maintain the existing network of locations.

Harborough Magna Parish Council took the opportunity to raise its concern that Main Street in the village was not gritted, despite it being a twisting road and used for school bus services. Roger Newham agreed to look into this matter to see whether it could be added to the roads in the village that were gritted.

Also in attendance was Tiz Gibson from Balfour Beatty, who had recently signed a five year contract with Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council to maintain the highways assets across Coventry and Warwickshire and undertake necessary maintenance. This maintenance work would include responsibility for winter gritting, surface dressing, white line marking, structural works and the filling of pot holes.

In an attempt to improve on the service currently being provided, Balfour Beatty was trialling four 'Find & Fix' teams that would carry sufficient equipment in their vans to enable them to repair pot holes immediately upon discovering them. This initiative was one of a number of ideas that were intended to reduce the inconvenience to the public caused by road maintenance problems such as pot holes. If the initiative turns out to be as successful as it sounds that it could be, these improvements in the speeds of repair will be very much welcomed.

Elsewhere on the agenda, we received updates from councillors who represent the branch on outside bodies and groups, including the county-wide committee of WALC and the latest business discussed by the Rugby Local Strategic Partnership.

The next branch meeting is scheduled for the end of February, when it is hoped that an officer from Warwickshire County Council will be in attendance to talk about grant funding opportunities that exist for parish councils (which should be particularly useful considering the pressures that parish councils are currently under to restrict increases in the amount of funding they raise from the Council Tax).

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Planning Application Consultation

This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
  • Wolf Systems Ltd, Shilton Industrial Estate, Bulkington Road, Shilton - installation of solar panels on the roofs of units A and B.
Full details of the application can be viewed here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Tuesday 22 November.

View Larger Map

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Police Crime Report - October

Warwickshire Police has released its latest crime report setting out incidents it considers are in the public interest that have occurred within Shilton and Barnacle during the last month. Two incidents have been highlighted:
  • Sunday 2 October - Theft - Church Road, Shilton
  • Overnight, the front and rear numberplates were stolen from a vehicle.
  • Thursday 13 October - Theft - Charles Lakin Close, Shilton
  • Three men disturbed in a garden attempting to steal a bike. One man arrested on the scene.
Warwickshire Police has asked that anyone with any information about these crimes should call them on (01788) 541111.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Planning Application Consultation

This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
  • Wolf Systems Ltd, Shilton Industrial Estate, Bulkington Road, Shilton - installation of four new windows in an existing warehouse unit.
Full details of the application can be viewed here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Friday 4 November.

View Larger Map

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Superfast Broadband Update

I'm following with interest the campaign being lead by Warwickshire County Council to bring superfast broadband to those parts of the county that currently struggle with slow download speeds. A regular newsletter is now being published in order that residents can keep up to date with how the project is going, and I have reproduced the first of these newsletters below:
Project Update
Since the announcement that the Government was to make £530m available for the provision of superfast broadband in the rural areas, there have been a succession of follow-up announcements. We are seeking clarification on a number of issues, but this is the position as we currently understand it.

The Government is making £4.07m available for Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire. There is a requirement that this amount should be match-funded from local authority capital funds, which is challenging given the current economic climate, although the spend can be spread over a number of years.

The Government ambition is to provide a minimum of 2Mbps broadband to all homes, and superfast broadband to 90% of people by 2015. Superfast broadband has been clarified to mean at least 24Mbps. Coming behind this is an EU requirement that by 2020, fast broadband coverage at 30Mbps should be available to all EU citizens, with at least half European households subscribing to broadband access at 100Mbps. Clearly, this is a significant uplift coming just a short time after the UK targets and this will have implications for the Local Broadband Plan.

We are still actively collecting data (see below) and hope to submit the Local Broadband Plan to Government in April next year. This document should show how we propose to improve broadband speeds across the whole of the sub-region, not just the rural areas, although it is only the rural areas that will receive Government funding.

What can you do to help? How good is your broadband?
A key component of your Local Broadband Plan will be evidence of where specific problems exist across the sub-region. We therefore have to map this information and in order to do that we need your help. If you have not already done so please complete the broadband survey that is located here - there is one survey for domestic use and one for business use, so if you run a business or work from home please do both - and encourage your neighbours to do it as well because the more people that respond from a given area the higher priority it will be.

How close can fibre get to your property?
A (usually) simple way to improve broadband speeds is to put fibre to the BT cabinet. This is a green box by the side of the road which provides telecoms to a village or group of properties. We need to map the exact locations of these boxes so that we can establish what benefits might be gained from this type of upgrade. Please register the location of your BT cabinet and any others you may come across. You can do this here and there is also an App for iPhone or Android so that you can do it whilst you are out and about!
Further updates will be issued on a monthly basis (which I'll also post here). For further information about the superfast broadband project, please click here.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Police Crime Report - September

Warwickshire Police have released their latest crime report setting out incidents they consider are in the public interest that have occurred within Shilton and Barnacle during the last month. Two incidents have been highlighted:

  • Monday 26 September - Theft - Wood Lane, Shilton Overnight, entry was gained into a business premises and a quantity of garden equipment was stolen.

  • Thursday 29 September - Theft  - Church Road, Shilton
  • Overnight, the rear number plate was stolen from a vehicle.

    Warwickshire Police have asked that anyone with any information about these crimes should call them on (01788) 541111.

    Tuesday, 4 October 2011

    Planning Application Consultation

    This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
    • Land rear of The Trossachs, Parrotts Grove, Coventry - creation of a raised hard-standing for car parking and storage (retrospective).
    Full details of the application can be viewed here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Friday 21 October.

    View Larger Map

    Saturday, 1 October 2011

    How Eric Pickles Defines 'Localism'

    Why does Eric Pickles make life so hard for supporters of localism? The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has been all over the press in the last few days promising funding totalling £250m to local authorities in England and Wales that re-introduce a weekly bin collection. He was quoted as saying:
    "The last Labour Government ruthlessly forced councils into axing bin collections. Their policies of bin taxes, bin fines and bin cuts hammered hard working families and fuelled fly-tipping."
    And I have no problem with Eric Pickles telling anyone who'll listen what he thinks about the frequency of bin collections, and subtleties of weekly vs. alternate weekly collections. It's just that, in my mind at least, the frequency that Rugby Borough Council collects my rubbish, how it does it, how much it costs, and the overall quality of the service, is between me and Rugby Borough Council. The government generally, and the Department for Communities and Local Government specifically, must have enough to occupy its time than to start poking its nose into my rubbish (no pun intended).

    Eric Pickles was one of the principle cheerleaders for localism following the election of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition in May last year. His department very clearly defined localism as:
    "......the transfer of power and resources from central government to the local level. It is the idea that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect. Localism can also mean allowing local people to set priorities and become involved in decisions about the future of their area."
    I am fully supportive of this as a philosophy to guide the delivery of public services. The UK is one of the most over centralised countries in the world as far as who makes the decisions. Local councils are considered an irrelevance by so many of the public because they are so limited in the extent of the local discretion that they have. Local authorities don't, by and large, decide what to do. They simply do what the central government of the day tells them to do.

    Is it any surprise therefore that electoral turnout for local elections is so poor compared to national elections? Is it any wonder that anyone with political ambition wants to become an MP (of the governing party, naturally), rather than be a councillor? But give local councils the power and authority to actually make meaningful and real decisions about services, and then leave them to get on with it, and the local authorities up and down the country will start to matter to us all once again.

    I began to believe that the Conservatives finally 'got it'. Well, at least they did whilst they were in opposition. But once they got their hands on the levers of power, it became too difficult for people like Eric Pickles to say that bin collections were nothing to do with him, and that if someone had a complaint then they should take it up with the people who make the decisions on these matters ie. local councils. Instead, he launches a campaign to get weekly bin collections reinstated, and offers a £250m incentive for councils to do what he wants them to do.

    So despite being told during the last few months that local bus services were being cut because councils don't have enough money, and public libraries were being closed because councils don't have enough money, I'm now told that the government has found £250m to pay for an extra collection of refuse which, as far as I can tell is not particularly wanted, and is certainly not needed. I'd like to suggest that if the government does have £250m it doesn't know what to do with, it might like to use it to reduce its own budget deficit this year. Or at least divide it up proportionately amongst all of the councils in England and Wales and let them decide what to spend the money on.

    If I don't like Rugby Borough Council's policy on bin collections, I'll raise the issue with my local councillors. If, come election, I still don't like what I'm getting, I'll vote for the party who promises to do things differently. I'm really not sure why Eric Pickles, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, needs to get involved.

    After all, isn't that what localism is all about??

    Monday, 26 September 2011

    Planning Application Consultation

    This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
    • Garden House, Lower Road, Barnacle - formation of new vehicular access and driveway.
    Full details of the application can be viewed here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Friday 14 October.

    Thursday, 22 September 2011

    Parish Council Meeting - 13 September

    Last week I attended the September meeting of Shilton Parish Council. This meeting was notable mainly for the formal approvals given to go ahead with two projects that will be the basis of the parish council’s main expenditure items during the year: CCTV and new fencing at Shilton playing fields.

    Back in December 2009, I first reported about a rural CCTV system being rolled out amongst parishes within Rugby borough. Twenty-one months later (which gives you an example of how long things like this can sometimes take), the parish council has agreed that a two-camera CCTV system should be installed in the Shilton Village Hall car park area. There have been concerns for a number of years now that the car park was providing a convenient location for people to gather late at night and participate in drug dealing/taking, particularly so for youths coming into the village from outside locations. Whilst the cameras that are being installed will not be monitored ‘live’ by either the Police or the parish council, they will provide useful evidence and information to enable the Police to better tackle this problem should it become more prevalent.

    If you read the article on the CCTV cameras in the August/September edition of BASIS, you will have seen that the parish council was asking for anyone who wished to comment on their installation in Shilton to contact the Clerk and to put forward their views. No submissions were made, and therefore councillors took the view that there would be no significant objection from the community.

    One of the benefits of the rural CCTV system is that the number of cameras can be increased and the system built up at any time in the future. The parish council was mindful of this in respect of locations within Barnacle and, whilst there were not considered to be any obvious locations where a camera was needed at the moment, if residents in Barnacle do wish to see CCTV cameras in their village, please add a comment at the end of this post or speak to me directly.

    The cameras and the equipment needed to operate them will cost the parish council a total of £4,000 to set up and install, and particular thanks is due to Councillor Stephen White who managed to negotiate down the cost of that part of the system that the parish council will need to fund.

    The other significant matter that was agreed at the meeting was the decision to go ahead with the purchase and installation of netting at Shilton playing fields. This netting will effectively screen the eastern side of the playing field and prevent stray cricket balls and footballs encroaching into traffic along Bulkington Road. The parish council has been concerned for some time of the potential for a serious traffic accident if balls hit vehicles travelling at speed. The solution will be to erect a mesh fence, in three overlapping sections, at the rear of each football pitch and in the space between the two pitches, to catch stray balls.

    Quotes for the works, which is expected to require planning permission from Rugby Borough Council, were obtained from three companies and TB Sports Fencing submitted the best quote in terms of price and quality. The works will cost around a total of £13,500.

    Next year, the parish council plan to replace the hedging along the eastern boundary of the playing field in order to visually improve the playing field facility.

    In other items of business, County Councillor Phillip Morris-Jones provided an update on matters of interest for the parish. The county council had agreed to provide two ‘30mph Slow Down’ flashing signs, which were to be placed temporarily in Church Road and Bulkington Road. These should help slow traffic entering the village from the Ansty and Bulkington directions.

    Although Borough Councillor Rachel Watts was unable to attend the meeting in person, she did produce a written briefing, which particularly drew attention to the response that Rugby Borough Council had submitted to the Government’s recent consultation on changes to planning rules affecting the siting of gypsy and traveller sites. Rugby’s planning officers had concluded that the new guidance did not address the fundamental issue of whether the same planning rules should apply to gypsies/travellers as to the settled community. The Government, in Rugby Borough Council's view, had two options: either to seek to apply the same planning rules for all and accept market dynamics would almost inevitably lead to failure to deliver the number of gypsy/traveller sites that is claimed to be needed, or accept that there is an incompatibility of lifestyles between gypsies/travellers and the settled community and that the same rules cannot apply. A copy of the full response can be viewed here and is well worth a read (it starts on page 121 of the linked document).

    Rachel Watts also indicated that she would not be seeking re-election as a borough councillor in May next year, as she is due to take up employment in London shortly afterwards and would therefore be moving away. Whilst Rachel has not always been a firm favourite of some of the people who have posted comments on this blog, I have found her always to be interested in what is going on in Shilton and Barnacle, and prepared to help out whenever it was felt that she could be of use. The local elections next year will, of course, be fought under the new ward boundaries and Shilton and Barnacle will be part of the new ‘Wolvey and Shilton’ ward. With Rachel deciding to stand down, we know that there's a good chance there'll be a new borough councillor representing the parish.

    The rest of the meeting was the usual mix of planning applications, consultations, financial matters and potholes, and everything was finally wrapped up after 10.30pm. The next meeting of the parish council will be held on Tuesday 4 October at 7.30pm.

    Monday, 5 September 2011

    Planning Application Decision

    Rugby Borough Council has reached the following decision on a planning application that was submitted in July:
    • 22 Church Road, Shilton - erection of single storey front and rear extensions (including demolition of existing garage) and conversion of the other existing detached garage to ancillary residential accommodation - approved.
    The full decision on this application can be viewed here.

    Sunday, 7 August 2011

    Police Crime Report - July

    Warwickshire Police have released their latest crime report for the Shilton and Barnacle area setting out incidents they consider of public interest and for public consumption that occurred during the past month.

    Five incidents have been highlighted:

    • Friday 22 July - Burglary - Wood Lane, Shilton
      Overnight, unknown persons entered a shed and took a sit-on lawnmower across the field to the rear of the property.
    • Friday 22 July - Damage - Lower Road, Barnacle
      Overnight, unknown person gained entry into a field by prizing a lock.
    • Saturday 23 July - Theft - Wood Lane, Shilton
      Between 11.00am and 5.15pm, unknown persons stole a cast iron sign from the front of a property.
    • Wednesday 27 July - Damage - Ash Tree Grove, Shilton
      At 1.00am, two male youths caused damage to an unattended vehicle by crayon. Information shared with West Midlands Police.
    • Thursday 28 July - Burglary - Wood Lane, Shilton
      Sometime between 23 - 28 July, unknown offenders forced entry into a garage and stole two quad bikes plus other items.

    Warwickshire Police have asked for anyone with information on these crimes to call them on (01788) 541111.

    Sunday, 17 July 2011

    Warwickshire Flag Flies in London

    One of the many things I enjoy about visiting Switzerland is the number of houses that fly a flag. And whilst you occasionally see the Swiss national flag on display, it's far more common for private residents and public buildings to fly their canton (or regional) flag.

    As someone who loves seeing flags being flown in any circumstances, it always strikes me that flags add something to the local pride of a community. I can safely say that in all my years, I have never, ever, seen the flag of Warwickshire being flown anywhere except at Shire Hall.

    I fully accept that probably 95% of the county's population wouldn't even recognise the flag of Warwickshire if they saw it flying, but it's a shame that it doesn't get more of an airing.

    So hats off to Eric Pickles for flying the county flag outside the London headquarters of the Department for Communities and Local Government during the last week. As part of the recognition of the role that England's counties play to the civic and communal life of the country, each week a different county has its flag flown, and this past week it has been Warwickshire's turn.

    I'm undoubtedly biased, but I think it's a rather splendid flag. Perhaps one or two more examples of it might even start cropping up a little closer to home?

    Friday, 15 July 2011

    Mark Pawsey MP Refers to Barnacle in Parliament

    It's always nice when your own Member of Parliament sees fit to raise a local concern in Parliament. So it was on Wednesday afternoon when Mark Pawsey took part in a debate in Westminster Hall on the planning system as it relates to gypsy and traveller sites.

    Obviously this has been a long standing issue in Shilton and Barnacle, and Mark Pawsey used his contribution to the debate, which had been called by Priti Patel, Conservative MP for Witham in Essex, to raise a number of concerns about the speed that it was taking to bring about changes to the planning laws.

    I think it's fair to say that Mark isn't a rebellious MP by nature, so it was significant to hear him to say:
    "I echo the concerns expressed by Philip Hollobone (Con, Kettering) and Gavin Williamson (Con, South Staffordshire) about the delays in the Government's introduction of changes. We spoke about that during the general election campaign and as soon as we came into government. We have raised expectations in communities, but are failing to realise them."
    The debate is being show on BBC Parliament on Sunday 17 July at 6.00am and Monday 18 July at 2.30am. Alternatively, you can watch it on the UK Parliament website here. The full debate lasts for an hour and three quarters, but if you just want to hear Mark Pawsey, he gets up to speak after an hour and 10 minutes.

    Monday, 11 July 2011

    Planning Policies and Parish Council Powers

    Normally, parish councils only make it into the news when a village stalwart finally decides to retire after having been a councillor for the last 49 years, or as a means of adding comic value to stories of petty bureaucracy by so-called jobsworths. So it was heartening over the weekend to see two stories that were a break from the norm.

    On Saturday, Geoffrey Lean in the Daily Telegraph
    wrote about the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework – due to be published later this month – that will set out the Government’s official guidance on how local councils should consider planning applications.

    Planning related matters must surely be at the top of any list of issues that will cause a community to collectively rise up in objection. Whether it’s next door’s extension or the line of route of the proposed High Speed 2 railway, almost everyone has an opinion on their neighbourhood and what it should look like. The difficulty for the planning regime is that local opinions are invariably that things should just be left exactly as they currently are, a premise which is both impossible and impractical to anybody who thinks about these things for more than a fleeting moment.

    Although they aren’t the Local Planning Authority (and therefore not directly responsible for planning matters), parish councils spend an awful lot of time on planning issues, either responding to consultations on individual applications and local planning policies, or because they will invariably be at (or near) the forefront of local campaigns against new development of one sort or another.

    The 'talk' from the Government since it got elected in May last year is that local communities are to be given more say in deciding on planning applications within their community. But this is only half true: the Localism Bill currently going through Parliament will give communities more scope to support applications that would otherwise not be granted
    , but communities will not be empowered to reject planning applications that the borough council wants to approve.

    Perhaps there really are villages up and down the country full of residents that are desperate for more houses, shops and industrial units that the council don't want to give permission for. But forgive me if I doubt that to really be the case!

    What concerns me more - and touched on in the Geoffrey Lean article - is proposals for planning authorities to be able to formally take into account financial incentives in granting planning permission. At the moment, developers can agree a financial contribution to the local council to help offset the impact of planning permission being granted. Typically, this could be the cost of building a children's play area on a new housing estate, or paying for a local bus service where one did not currently exist.

    The significant change that is proposed by the Government now is that the amount of money a developer is prepared to pay to the council can be a material consideration in deciding whether to grant planning permission or not. And it doesn't require too much of a stretch of the imagination to see that a large enough amount of money will always be able to outweigh the negative impact of planning permission. In other words, if enough money is offered up by way of incentive, then the local council will have very little option but to approve the planning application. I'm currently waiting for someone to explain to me the difference between this and what's commonly considered to be bribery.

    For whilst this change won't be of great benefit for somebody trying to get permission for a ground floor extension to their house, developers of wind farms (amongst many others) must at this very moment be calculating exactly how much "financial incentive" is needed to reach the tipping point to guarantee them planning approval.

    If this has an indirect impact on parish councils, then David Cameron's plans to give them "sweeping powers" to run local neighbourhoods (including licensing pubs and controlling parking) could genuinely be transformational. Patrick Hennessy
    trailed this in the Sunday Telegraph ahead of Cameron's launch of his Open Spaces White Paper today.

    I've not read the White Paper yet and so shall save my comments for another time, but I am supportive of anything that genuinely devolves responsibility down to communities, and that recognises that the most democratic and accountable body that can oversee these responsibilities within a village is the local parish council.

    I am convinced that parish councils have the unfortunate reputation that they (largely) do have because people struggle to see how they are relevant to their everyday lives. But by placing the parish council at the centre of village life - and giving it real and meaningful responsibilities - the public should engage with it more, leading to more people wanting to be parish councillors because they'll see a reason in wanting to be one. This should lead to finally having contested elections, and the improved accountability and legitimacy that parish councillors gain as a result of this.

    I'll blog more on the Open Public Services White Paper over the coming days and weeks, but in the meantime if this post has interested you enough to read some more, then take a look at the proposals yourself here:
    And look out for (hopefully!) many more newspaper stories featuring your local parish council delivering important and worthwhile public services.

    Saturday, 2 July 2011

    Shilton Parish Council 2010/11 Accounts

    Following last month's parish council meeting, I said that I would post online the income and expenditure account and balance sheet for Shilton Parish Council for 2010/11. These were both formally noted at the meeting on 7 June.

    Somewhat delayed (apologies!), here is that financial information. Click on the images to view them full screen:

    Income and Expenditure Account

    Balance Sheet

    As always, please feel free to comment or ask questions on this.

    Wednesday, 22 June 2011

    Fosse Division Community Forum - 16 June

    Latest Thursday night, I attended the quarterly Fosse Division Community Forum meeting in Withybrook where matters affecting, and of interest to, the Fosse area are discussed.

    It was nice to see a good turnout from the local area at this meeting: four Shilton parish councillors were in attendance, along with a further five residents from Barnacle. This turnout was principally to hear the item on local policing priorities, which is when the
    Rugby Rural North Safer Neighbourhood Team ask members of the public what they would like to see the local police team focus on during the next three months.

    The discussion was led by Sergeant Sam Oakley, who heads up the local Safer Neighbourhoods Team. There were a number of suggestions put forward for policing priorities, including carrying out extra patrols to try and curb much of the anti-social behaviour that seems to have increased around the Top Road area of Barnacle recently. The police were supportive of this request and agreed to adopt it as one of their priorities, albeit slightly diluted by rolling it into a wider priority to deter anti-social behaviour in Barnacle, Shilton and Ansty collectively. I hope that proper focus is given to where anti-social behaviour is currently happening, rather than where there are (largely unsubstantiated) community fears that it might be.

    Helpfully, the Safer Neighbourhood Team keep a log of the action they have taken in response to this policing priority, which can be viewed
    here. At the time of writing, two specific patrols had been conducted by PCSO Matt Havelock on Friday 17 June at 9.50am and Saturday 18 June at 3.20pm. There is a commitment to undertake a minimum of 15 extra patrols during the next three months.

    Anna Rose, Head of Planning and Culture at Rugby Borough Council, then gave a presentation on development issues in the borough. These focused on the proposed housing development at the
    Rugby Radio Station site in the east of the borough (providing 6,000+ new homes) and the Gateway development site in the north of Rugby town (which will provide a further 1,000+ new homes). Whilst not impacting directly on the Fosse area in themselves, these will be significant housing developments that will meet the future housing needs of the borough up to 2026.

    More contentiously, Anna Rose also updated members of the public on the development of wind farms in the borough (the current planning application by
    SSE Renewables for nine turbines at Churchover can be viewed here) and on the appeals that have been lodged against Rugby Borough Council's refusal of planning permission for two gypsy caravan sites in Top Road, Barnacle. The first appeal, at land on the south side of Top Road (and known locally as 'Top Park 2') is scheduled to begin on 1 November, with the appeal at the larger 'Top Park 1' site to commence sometime after that date.

    Finally, Tonino Ciuffini, Warwickshire County Council's Head of ICT, gave a presentation on the campaign to improve broadband speeds within the county, and
    urged everyone to complete a questionnaire on the broadband service that they currently received, as well as what they'd like to receive in the future. I've blogged previously about this questionnaire (which is being organised by the Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, with support from Warwickshire County Council).

    The poor broadband line speeds that are being experienced by too many people in the county (including in Shilton and Barnacle) mean that we are increasingly being left behind as more and more public services, as well as social/leisure services, are being delivered on websites that need highspeed broadband availability to make full the use of.

    Questionnaires need to be completed by 30 June. Click
    here to complete the questionnaire if you a a business, or here if you're completing it as a local resident. I would urge everyone to do this, as it all helps in getting the evidence needed to securing funding to improve line speeds.

    The next Fosse Division Community Forum is scheduled for 29 September 2011 at 7.30pm at a venue to be agreed.

    Friday, 10 June 2011

    Parish Council Meeting - 2 June

    On Tuesday night I attended the June meeting of Shilton Parish Council.

    Introducing himself at the meeting was PCSO Matt Havelock who recently started work in the
    Rugby Rural North Safer Neighbourhood Team, which includes the Shilton and Barnacle area. Matt seemed keen to get to know the villages and the problems that are being experienced, and to help with this he has restarted the mobile police station scheme whereby he will visit each of the larger villages within his Rugby Rural North area in order for local residents to meet him, raise issues of concern or to get more information on police matters.

    The mobile police station will be in the village hall car park, Wood Lane, Shilton between 3.15pm - 4.15pm on Sundays 19 June, 10 July, 31 July and 21 August. Sadly, timings do not yet allow for the mobile police station to visit Barnacle, and this matter was raised with him. He promised to see if it could be scheduled in later on in the year.

    PCSO Matt Havelock can be contacted on (01788) 853853.

    In other business,
    County Councillor Phillip Morris-Jones reported on recent matters at Shire Hall, including Warwickshire County Council's continued attempts to save £66m from their budget over the next three years. Part of these savings (a seemingly trivial £16,000) will come from the closure of Bulkington library, although local residents there are making good progress in their attempts to take over responsibility for the library to ensure it remains open.

    Councillors also congratulated Councillor Morris-Jones on his
    recent election as Chairman of the county council for 2011/12.

    The parish council considered its response to two on-going public consultations: Warwickshire County Council's proposals for improved partnership working (which includes proposed changes to the way
    community forums operate), and a consultation from the Department for Communities and Local Government on changes to the Government's guidance to local authorities on the provision of travellers sites. This is clearly relevant to both the settled and gypsy/traveller communities living in the parish, and it is appropriate for the parish council to express its views on the matter.

    Those of you at the
    Annual Parish Meeting in May would have heard of the plans to replace the hedge in the sports field that runs alongside Bulkington Road and to erect netting to stop balls from straying on to the road. The parish council is keen to progress with this project, although it will not be cheap to do and the proposals will therefore require significant oversight and scrutiny to ensure that value for money is being achieved.

    Councillors discussed this on Tuesday night and asked for a number of further quotes to be sought, as well as examples of where similar type netting had been installed at other sports pitches so that they were clear as to what exactly was to be provided.

    The parish council's internal auditor has returned its audited accounts for 2010/11 and these were circulated to councillors. I will attach copies of these accounts to this post in the next few days so that you can see exactly where the money's been spent during the last year.

    Councillors also agreed once again to sponsor the trophies presented to participants in the Shilton village sports day being held later this year.

    A long meeting ended just after 10.30pm. The next meeting of the parish council will be held on Tuesday 5 July at 7.30pm.

    Sunday, 29 May 2011

    Planning Application Decision

    Rugby Borough Council has reached the following decision on a planning application that was submitted in January:
    • High Tor, Shilton Lane, Shilton - use of land as a private gypsy caravan site, comprising five pitches, hardstanding and amenity block - refused.

    The full decision on this application can be viewed here.

    Tuesday, 24 May 2011

    Business Campaign to Improve Village Broadband Speeds

    I noticed this article in the May edition of 'Business Focus' included within last week's Rugby Advertiser newspaper.

    Poor broadband speeds in our villages continue to be a barrier to all of us enjoying the full benefits of the internet, and anyone trying to do something about that deserves our support. Therefore, I would urge as many businesses and residents as possible in Shilton and Barnacle to complete the survey on the
    Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce's website.
    Companies feel the need for speed by Peter Ormerod

    A Rugby businesswoman is leading a campaign for faster internet connections in the town and surrounding villages.

    Leigh Hunt works as an e-business adviser for
    Warwickshire County Council and is helping a group of companies and local authorities put together a bid for high-speed broadband across the county. She is now calling on businesses to tell her how the current system is working - or not working.

    Leigh said: "Superfast broadband is not just a luxury for businesses. It has become essential. It's impossible to overstate the massive benefit this would bring to the whole economy - especially in our more rural areas, which are currently at a disadvantage because of not being able to use everyday technologies. But we need to know exactly how the current system is working and how it is affecting business to prove that action is needed."

    Leigh believes that, as an example, every business and household should be able to use the
    BBC's iPlayer without difficulty - something that's not the case at present.

    She added: "That's a good benchmark and if we can get the entire sub-region up to speed it would bring huge economic benefits. Even in places like Shilton, businesses have problems.

    The campaign is being waged on behalf of
    Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, which includes councils in Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull and the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.

    Businesses and individuals wishing to make known their views on the subject can complete a survey at the Chamber's website.

    See for more information.
    It's particularly pleasing that the rural areas are recognised as suffering with poor broadband connection speeds, and even better that Shilton is specifically highlighted as an example.

    Read more about this

    Sunday, 22 May 2011

    Planning Application Decisions

    Rugby Borough Council has reached the following decisions on planning applications that were submitted in March and April:
    • 74 Wood Lane, Shilton - demolition of outbuildings, provision of a link between dwelling and converted garage, and provision of a replacement garage - approved.
    • St Andrew's Church, Church Road, Shilton - retrospective permission for the removal of the lead roof and replacement with a stainless steel roof - approved.

    The full decisions on these applications can be viewed here (Wood Lane) and here (Church Road).

    Saturday, 21 May 2011

    Annual Parish Meeting - 18 May

    On Wednesday night, I attended the Shilton Annual Parish Meeting, held at the Village Hall in Shilton. This is not strictly a parish council meeting, but gives the opportunity for community representatives to report back to local residents on how the past year has gone within their organisations, and to look forward to the year ahead.

    Sadly, it has been my experience that these meetings are sparsely attended, and Wednesday was no different. At best, it could be argued that four members of the public turned up (in addition to the parish councillors and those other individuals that were submitting reports) - although three of the four were connected to the
    BASIS magazine themselves and the other person was the wife of the Chairman! Before next year's Annual Parish Meeting is held, I think some serious thought needs to be given as to what people might actually want from this meeting and how it might better engage their attention.

    Still, for everyone who wanted to attend but couldn't for whatever reason, here's something new from my blog.

    Ever since I attended the
    WALC Annual Seminar in March and sat in on the presentation given by Nick Booth from Podnosh, I've become interested in the idea of recording parish council meetings and posting them online for people to listen to at their convenience. I firmly believe that local residents would become more interested in what parish councils do if they knew more about the things that are discussed. And whilst I don't expect people to sit through hours of meetings in order to hear the one bit of information that they're interested in, there's no reason that I can see not to bring the meetings to people's own homes by way of an audio recording posted online.

    When Shilton Parish Council discussed this idea earlier this year, it'd be fair to say that it did not receive universal support (the general view being closer to universal rejection!). But in fairness, there was the suggestion that the Annual Parish Meeting be recorded and posted online. And so here it is.

    I've reproduced the agenda below, with timings indicating when each item can be heard, so I'd suggest you fast forward to the bits you're interested in. I must warn you not to expect crystal clear, DAB broadcast quality sound, but certainly most of what I listened to is reasonably clear and people's voices can be clearly heard.

    And now a request from me. If you like the idea of being able to listen to future Shilton Parish Council meetings online, when it suits you how, where and when to listen, then you need speak out in favour of this in one of three ways. Click on the 'reactions' button at the bottom of this post to the one that most closely reflects your view, or leave a comment saying what you think. Alternatively, email the Clerk and tell her why you think all parish council meetings should be recorded. Email and let her know what you think.

    The most likely way to get Shilton Parish Council to change its mind on this matter is to let us know that you, the Council Tax payers, want more meetings recorded and made available to listen to. So, it's up to you.

    Anyway, enough of my party political broadcast. Time to 'enjoy' the 2011 Shilton Annual Parish Meeting:

    Shilton Annual Parish Meeting 18 May 2011.mp3 (hold down CTRL when clicking on this link to open in a new window)

    1. Welcome from Councillor Bill King (0:00:00)
    2. Minutes of last year's Annual Parish Meeting (0:00:26)
    3. Matters arising from the minutes (0:06:59)
    County Councillor Phillip Morris-Jones' report (0:07:21)
    Borough Councillor Tony Gillias' report (0:16:51)
    6. Parish Council Chairman Bill King's report (0:41:39)
    7. Shilton Playing Fields Committee's report (1:02:31)
    8. Shilton Village Hall Committee's report (1:08:02)
    9. Barnacle Village Hall Committee's report (1:09:40)
    10. BASIS magazine editor's report (1:13:45)
    Shilton and Ansty Trust report (1:26:15)
    12. Any Other Business (1:31:10)

    Tuesday, 17 May 2011

    More on the Elections

    Just a bit more information and a few thoughts from me on the local elections that were held earlier this month. I've totted up the Rugby Borough Council-wide vote totals to judge the relative strengths of the local parties compared to when these particular seats were last fought four years ago, and these are:

  • Conservative - 12,889 votes (46.2%, +1.0%)
  • Labour - 8,296 votes (29.7%, +4.0%)
  • Liberal Democrats - 4,522 votes (16.2%, -9.5%)
  • Green - 1,456 votes (5.2%, +2.2%)
  • Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition - 758 votes (2.7%)

  • In terms of the share of the vote, the losers on the night were the Liberal Democrats, although given their results across the country as a whole, I suspect they'll be relieved to have lost only one seat. Their share of the vote seems to have split one of three different ways: to Labour, the Greens or the new Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition. The Conservatives will no doubt be pleasantly surprised to have increased their majority on the council (along with their share of the overall vote) despite pre-election predictions of widespread party losses.

    At the local parish level, special mention must go, of course, to Birdingbury and Wolfhampcote parish councils for being the only two villages within the borough who generated enough candidates to require elections to be held (see here for more on this).

    It was obviously a national problem, which the Daily Telegraph picked up on in a short piece entitled "Dibley Effect 'Hits Parish Councils'":

    The BBC sitcom The Vicar of Dibley has been blamed for putting people off the idea of running for parish councils.

    In a number of wards around the country, no candidates put their name forward in Thursday's elections, meaning vacant seats were uncontested.

    No candidates stood in three wards of Forest Row Parish Council in East Sussex.

    Rodabe Rudin, the clerk of the council, said "I think people are stuck with a Dibley-esque mentality when it comes to parish councils.

    "They see parish councillors as powerless eccentrics like in The Vicar of Dibley. But that is outdated and untrue."

    Across Rugby borough, 14 seats were left unfilled because not enough local people put their names forward. Parish councils will now need to try and co-opt individuals to come forward, a situation that I feel is never particularly satisfactory.

    But for anyone thinking that the public at large aren't really interested in parish-level politics, consider this: the voter turnout in the two villages that did have parish council elections were 75% (Birdingbury) and 68% (Wolfhampcote). The highest turnout for the borough council elections was just 55% in Dunchurch & Knightlow ward, and only 35% of voters turned out in the New Bilton ward to elect their borough councillor.

    Perhaps proof, if it were needed, that if only more local residents would consider standing for parish council elections, the voting public are more than willing to play their part in the process?

    Friday, 6 May 2011

    Rugby Borough Council Election and Referendum Results

    Voting to elect 16 councillors to sit on Rugby Borough Council for the next four years took place yesterday, and after the votes were counted, the Conservatives were returned to the Town Hall with a slightly increased majority.

    By the end of the night, the Conservatives had won nine seats (an increase of one),
    Labour had secured four seats (unchanged) and the Liberal Democrats three seats (down one). The overall balance of power for the next year will be:

    • Conservative - 29 seats
    • Labour - 11 seats
    • Liberal Democrats - 8 seats

    The Conservatives now have a majority of 10 over all other parties in the Council Chamber and retain the control of the council they've had since 2007.

    There were no local elections this year in the Fosse ward, but the whole borough did get a chance to vote in the referendum on changing the voting system used to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Across Rugby borough, the vote was:

    • Yes - 8,733 (27.0%)
    • No - 23,574 (73.0%)

    which turned out to be even more emphatic than the UK-wide result of Yes 31.7%, No 68.3%.

    Sunday, 1 May 2011

    Planning Application Consultation

    This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
    • St Andrew's Church, Church Road, Shilton - retrospective permission for the removal of the lead roof and replacement with a stainless steel roof.

    Full details of the application (including site plans) can be viewed here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Thursday 19 May.

    Wednesday, 27 April 2011

    Where have all the Parish Councillors Gone?

    Birdingbury and Wolfhampcote aren’t normally places associated with being at the forefront of local democracy. But right now, the residents of these two villages can consider themselves to be showing the rest of Rugby borough the way it should be done. Next Thursday is election day. Not only is there the national referendum on electoral reform being held alongside elections for most wards on Rugby Borough Council (although not Fosse), but there are also elections for 104 parish councillors sitting on 16 different parish councils in the area.

    Public voting for any level of government, national or local, only takes place if more people stand for election than there are vacancies. If there are enough vacant seats for everybody who puts their name forward, those people are elected automatically, without the need for anyone else to vote on the matter. It's called an uncontested election.

    And whilst an uncontested election is never likely to happen again at a General Election (the last time being in 1951 in four seats in Northern Ireland), it is equally rare in local elections to
    Warwickshire County Council or Rugby Borough Council. Sadly, the same can’t be said for parish council elections.

    That is why the residents of Birdingbury and Wolfhampcote deserve special recognition, because they are the only parishes holding elections this year where more residents have put themselves forward to sit on their local parish council than there are vacancies available. In the other 14 villages, there will be no need to have an election, because there’s an empty seat available for everyone who put their name forward – and with seats still going spare!

    The 14 parishes –
    Binley Woods, Bourton & Draycote, Brandon & Bretford, Cawston, Dunchurch, Frankton, Grandborough, Leamington Hastings, Marton, Princethorpe, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Stretton-on-Dunsmore, Thurlaston and Willoughby - have a combined 94 parish council vacancies, but only 80 people wanting to fill them.

    So why don’t local residents want to become involved in their parish council?

    Perhaps parish councils don’t publicise elections enough and nobody actually knows that they are being held until they turn up to vote on 5 May, only to be told that it's a done deal. It’s certainly true that an unscrupulous parish councillor can just keep their mouth shut about the upcoming elections, safe in the knowledge that the best way to get re-elected is by avoiding drawing public attention to the matter. Perhaps too many people still view their parish council as a joke and have no desire to get involved (although that view is self-defeating and will only perpetuate the status quo). Maybe people think that they're a toothless talking-shop, and whilst it’s true that you’re not going to be able to change the world as a parish councillor, there is more scope to influence things than you’d initially consider to be the case.

    Take the money that's available as an example. The 80 parish councillors returned unopposed this year will, between them, have the responsibility and authority to spend over £330,000 of taxpayers’ money in the next 12 months on whatever they think their villages need. Whether you're elected unopposed or by a public vote, you have a four year term of office, so the lucky 80 councillors will now have over £1.3m at their disposal before they are required to stand for election again.

    Dunchurch parish councillors will spend £70,000 this year, Stretton-on-Dunsmore and Ryton-on-Dunsmore will both spend around £53,000 each, and the parish councillors in Cawston will be spending over £50,000 during 2011/12. If any proof was needed of the topsy-turvy world of parish politics, eight residents in Wolfhampcote are fighting for five seats on their parish council (total annual budget £1,500!)

    The next elections for Shilton Parish Council will be held in May 2012. At this stage I have no great confidence that enough people will put their names forward to force an election here either. I hope they do. By then, I'll have managed to be a parish councillor for six years without anyone having to say whether they actually want me in that role. Worse still, it's said that there's not been an election to the parish council in living memory.

    If you are interested in what happens in your village (and I've met very few people who aren't) there's no better time to get involved. Budget cuts at national and local level, plus the challenges of the
    Big Society, mean that villages need people to speak up on their behalf and fight to keep vital services. New legislation will also mean parishes developing Neighbourhood Development Plans that will give them a greater say in planning applications affecting their area. Everybody sings the praises of localism, now we just need the people to make it a reality!

    I hope more of us can take inspiration from the Birdingburys and Wolfhampcotes of this world.

    Friday, 15 April 2011

    Planning Applications Consultation and Decision

    This week, a planning application has been submitted by:
    • 74 Wood Lane, Shilton - demolition of outbuildings, provision of a link between dwelling and converted garage, and provision of a replacement garage.

    Full details of the application (including site plans) can be viewed here. All comments on the application must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Tuesday 26 April.

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

    • Top Park, Top Road, Barnacle - retention of the use of land and ancillary operational development as a residential caravan site, including the erection of six temporary amenity blocks - refused.

    The full decision on this application can be viewed here.

    Saturday, 2 April 2011

    Time for a Bulkington Parish Council?

    Have you been wondering what Bulkington Parish Council is doing in response to the proposals to close their village library? The answer's easy - it's doing nothing, because there is no such thing as a Bulkington Parish Council.

    Despite the village having a distinct boundary and strong civic identity amongst its residents, there has not been a local council of any description around which issues affecting the village can be debated and problems solved since 1932. Just 15-odd miles to the south, the 7,500 people who live in Whitnash have their own
    town council with a £90,000 budget to look after their interests, whilst the 6,500 people of Bulkington have, well, nothing.

    OK, to be fair they do have a
    county councillor (but who doesn't live there) and two borough councillors. But doesn't Bulkington need and deserve to have access to grassroots representatives who live amongst the people they represent, who hold public meetings locally and are accountable in a sense that someone who lives in Nuneaton and attends meetings in Warwick isn't?

    It's not like Warwickshire County Council even holds a distinct Bulkington Community Forum for the people who live in the village, preferring instead to have a 'Whitestone & Bulkington' forum, as if a suburban housing estate in Nuneaton shares any of the issues and problems that a village community does.

    Perhaps Bulkington doesn't want it's own council. Perhaps it thinks that the threatened library closure, the solutions to the traffic and parking problems in Chequer Street and Leicester Street, the bus services to Coventry that will be cut, and all the other issues that it will have to face up to in the coming years are best left to bureaucrats in other places, without the direct input and influence of people who have to adapt and live with the consequences of these decisions.

    It's been nearly 80 years since the residents of Bulkington were served by their own local council. As the ideals of localism and civic self-responsibility come back into vogue, is it now time to ask again whether those residents can be better served with their own local parish council giving a louder voice to their interests, instead of forever being told by others what's good for them?

    Over 200 new parish councils have been established across England in the last ten years, and the
    National Association of Local Councils' 'Power to the People' toolkit should be the first port of call for anyone who's interested in exploring this issue further.

    Monday, 14 March 2011

    WALC Annual Seminar - 5 March

    Earlier this month I attended the Warwickshire and West Midlands Association of Local Councils (WALC) Annual Seminar in Warwick. It is now the third year that I've attended this one day training event that brings together representatives from many of the town and parish councils in Warwickshire and the West Midlands to listen to speeches, undertake training and share best practice with colleagues.

    Once again, there were three main sessions that I attended:
    James Derounian from the University of Gloucestershire led a very topical discussion on parish councils' role in the Big Society and Localism, Gary Stephens, Planning Policy Team Leader at Warwick District Council talked about the Government's proposed changes to the planning system, and then Nick Booth from Podnosh spoke about the benefits of social media as a means of effective consultation.

    All three sessions were really interesting. The Localism debate, and what the Big Society actually means in reality, rages on and it's clear that parish councils have a big part to play in this, as borough and county councils across the country end up cutting services (whether they want to or not).

    Given its very broadest definition, I would imagine its hard for anyone to disagree with the philosophy behind the Big Society, and I am a huge supporter of the principles of localism given how chronically over-centralised this country has become over the last generation or so. But (and it's a big but), I'm not sure of the capacity parish councils have at the moment to step in and fill the void left by retreating county/borough councils and other service providers.

    Attending conferences such as this one opens your eyes to many of the amazing things that some parish councils do within their community, but the parish council sector as a whole needs to be honest enough to admit that there is a mixed bag out there and many local councils just do not yet have the capacity, skills, knowledge and ability to deliver effective public services to their community. The challenge will be how this can be addressed over the coming years.

    'Planning' is always a contentious subject matter for parish councils, where it is almost impossible to please everybody. It was therefore interesting to hear of the Government's new approach to the planning system that is contained within the Localism Bill. Back in May last year, the Government announced that the Localism Bill would, amongst many things:
    develop greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods, and give local communities control over housing and planning decisions.
    Of particular interest to parish councils within the Localism Bill is the creation of Neighbourhood Plans, which are intended to give a focus to the local planning aspirations and objectives of a parish area and are written by the local community itself. These plans cannot contradict national planning policies or the borough council's Core Strategy, so it might be argued that they serve little purpose - especially as they're projected to cost £17,000+ to produce. If that turns out to be their true cost (which to my mind seems ridiculously high) I can't imagine any Neighbourhood Plans being produced. The value of producing such a plan appears to be where the community wishes to encourage more development than might otherwise be envisaged in the borough's Core Strategy. As Gary Stephens said, the Government see Neighbourhood Plans as "not a means to prevent growth, but to stimulate more". Any takers?

    The day finished with Nick Booth from Podnosh demonstrating how social media tools such as
    Facebook, Twitter and Blogger etc can be used to engage with members of your local community. Clearly, he was preaching to the converted in my case(!), but it was interesting to see the many examples of where the internet is being utilised to spread the word of what parish councils and councillors are getting up to. The flip side of this is that social media is also increasingly being used by local residents to hold public services to account. I talked about this back in 2009, and another more recent example is the community website. As the traditional local print media seems to get less and less 'local', many people predict that it'll be sites such as this one where people will look first for their local news. Anyone out there planning a '' or even a '' website??

    Overall, it was really interesting day with plenty of ideas to mull over in the coming months (and at a very reasonable cost of £15 to the Shilton taxpayer).