Sunday, 26 February 2012

Planning Applications Consultation

New planning applications have been submitted by:
  • Carbury Investments, Units 4 - 12 and 3 - 13, Shilton Industrial Estate, Kiln Way, Shilton -  refurbishment and external alterations to building, including the demolition of existing flat roofed extensions, replacement of roof and wall cladding, windows, rooflights and vehicle doors.
  • Shilton Parish Council, Recreation Ground, Wood Lane, Shilton - erection of a 2m high fence and 4m high nets above.
Full details on the applications (including site plans) can be found here (Kiln Way) and here (Wood Lane). All comments on the applications must be received by Rugby Borough Council by Monday 5 March (Kiln Way) and Friday 16 March (Wood Lane).

Friday, 24 February 2012

Police Alert - Suspicious Vehicle WN51 JYA

Shilton and Barnacle have suffered their fair share of drain-cover thefts in recent times, and so whilst it's not directly in our area, this alert from the Rugby Rural Central Safer Neighbourhood Team is worth sharing in case you see the vehicle concerned:
Police are very keen to carry out stop checks on a vehicle which has been linked to several rural metal thefts recently. It is a white Fiat Ducato van, registration WN51 JYA. Please report immediately if the van is seen in suspicious circumstances.

PCSO 6169 Wilhelm Weininger

Rugby Rural Central Safer Neighbourhood Team
(01788) 853851

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Planning Conference - 11 February

Earlier this month I attended a planning conference in Dunchurch, organised by the Warwickshire & West Midlands Association of Local Councils and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

The conference was held to help parish councils and other interested people make better use of the planning system within their local community. Decisions on planning applications can often be a cause of tension within communities, when it's considered that either permission has been given for something that residents think will detract from the 'feel' of the area, or when planning applications are refused and this is seen to hold back or restrict development that many think is needed.

Within Shilton and Barnacle over recent years, there has been much discussion of the development of gypsy and traveller sites, particularly as these have been within Green Belt land. The extent to which new housing development should be permitted, that won't result in either village growing inexorably bigger and yet provides necessary housing to meet the rising demand, is also a planning matter that will need to be constantly under consideration. One thing is certain, the parish council will always be at the sharp end of planning issues and controversies, and it was intended that this conference would provide some help and expertise to parish councillors trying to balance the competing demands that planning matters always throw up.

In the morning, delegates heard from Mark Sullivan from the Warwickshire branch of the CPRE talking about the community's role in planning, including how to respond to planning applications, your right to attend meetings of the local planning committee, and the appeals system that exists for applications that have been refused. In truth, much of this would already be familiar to parish councils who are consulted on applications in most months. What was interesting though was the fact that, alone amongst Warwickshire councils, Rugby Borough Council did not allow members of the public (or parish councils) to speak at meetings of the planning committee. It was disappointing that Rugby has taken this position, particularly as seeing that public speaking at committee meetings is undertaken at all the other councils in Warwickshire (and a vast majority of councils across the country) without any apparent problem.

It does leave the impression that residents in the Rugby borough area are not afforded the opportunities to engage in the planning process that they would be if they lived in Atherstone, Leamington Spa, Nuneaton or Stratford-upon-Avon, and representatives from the CPRE drew attention to how unsatisfactory this arrangement was, and how out of step it was with accepted practice throughout the rest of the country.

As a result of this, I was asked - in my capacity of Chairman of the Rugby branch of WALC - to write to Rugby Borough Council to see whether it would be prepared to consider introducing the right of public speaking at future meetings of its planning committee. I shall report back on any response I receive.

In the afternoon, the conference received a presentation from Steve Patalong from Vital Villages on Neighbourhood Development Plans. It was this issue that I was most interested in.

Neighbourhood Planning is a new idea, introduced by the Government as part of the Localism Act 2011, which intends to give communities more influence and say in the sorts of development that will be permitted within their local area. It is prepared by the local parish council, and can set out a vision for the area, indicate where new homes, shops and other development should be built, identify and protect local green spaces, and influence what new buildings should look like.

As Steve Patalong made clear, Neighbourhood Plans can decide where and what type of development should happen in the neighbourhood, and can promote more development than is planned for by the local planning authority (ie. Rugby Borough Council), but what it cannot do is conflict with any existing policy/strategy of the local planning authority, and it cannot be used to prevent development that is otherwise planned for. And for many parish councils, this is the concern that they have over the value of Neighbourhood Plans: that they will enable more development to occur, but they won't be able to prevent less.

I don't entirely share this view. If Neighbourhood Plans are being 'sold' as a means for local communities to control development in their area, then there will be disappointment because I don't believe the plans will exactly provide for this suggested level of direct control. In December 2011, Rugby's MP Mark Pawsey was saying:

"Local plans ensure that power is placed firmly within the hands of local people. I urge those Rugby residents who want to participate in the future of planning and development in their local area to get involved with the production of their own plans."

This may have been over-egging what Neighbourhood Plans are capable of doing, but I'm not completely sceptical of their merits. Giving parish councils more responsibility in designing how their community will evolve in the future - within a framework that determines that community sustainability must come through planned development - is legitimately, I think, part of a localist philosophy, and therefore something I support.

Whether a Neighbourhood Plan is the right approach for Shilton and Barnacle remains to be seen, and is no doubt something that I'll blog about in the future. It must also be said that unless the reported £20,000 cost of producing such a plan (to be paid for by the parish council) is much reduced, this will be prohibitive for all but the biggest local councils. But its an interesting new development, and this part of the conference was very much the most useful part for me.

The event was free of charge for those who attended and was paid for from funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government, who also produced this short video about neighbourhood planning:

Sunday, 12 February 2012

We Know What You Did Last Winter.....

I don't think the acting is likely to trouble the BAFTA judges, but with the colder weather having returned, I though I'd share with you this video produced by Warwickshire County Council's Highways Department warning people against using grit from roadside bins for their own personal use.

There were a number of grit bins in Shilton and Barnacle that were emptied during last year's winter by people wanting the grit for their own private use. This became something of a problem when the county council stopped its regular gritting of the outlying rural roads in order to conserve grit stocks for use within the county's towns. Unfortunately, no-one was able to use the grit stored in the roadside bins for the two villages' roads as it had, effectively, been stolen.

Hopefully, there won't be a repeat of this during the current colder weather.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Planning Application Consultation

A new planning application has been submitted by:
  • Barnacle Village Hall, Lower Road, Barnacle - erection of an extension to the village hall.
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 Monday 20 February.

View Larger Map

Friday, 10 February 2012

Parish Council Meeting - 7 February

On Tuesday night, I chaired the February meeting of Shilton Parish Council.

As usual, the meeting started with updates from county councillor Phillip Morris-Jones and borough councillor Tony Gillias on recent developments at the Shire Hall in Warwick and the Town Hall in Rugby.

I was particularly interested to hear Councillor Gillias report that on the previous night, Rugby Borough Council's Cabinet had agreed to contribute £246,000 to the funding that had been provisionally allocated to support improved broadband within the borough. I have blogged about this project on a number of occasions and am particularly keen to see broadband line speeds in Shilton and Barnacle improve considerably to that that was currently provided.

Out of total Government funding across the country of £530m for this project, Warwickshire has been allocated £2.95m in order that superfast broadband, with line speeds of greater than 24Mbps, is made available to 90% of homes. The Rugby borough area has been awarded £246,545, which needed to be match-funded from other sources in order to release the Government cash. Thankfully, the funding allocated earlier in the week by Rugby Borough Council has done this, which will ensure that at least £500,000 will be spent improving broadband speeds locally. This is likely to increase further by attracting additional private sector funding.

I'd recommend anyone interested in this subject to read the report that was submitted to the Cabinet meeting on 6 February (if you can overlook the irony of downloading a 32Mb file with broadband line speeds not fit for the purpose, it's agenda item no. 8!). I was particularly pleased to see a recognition within that report of the problems that poor broadband speeds pose for people living within the rural part of the borough. The report highlighted this, saying:

With Rugby town receiving the majority of the benefits from private investment, this has become an issue of rural development.

As private residents in rural locations are those who may find it most difficult to take advantage of face to face services at the Town Hall, channel shift to online services would seem natural. Without access to broadband services however, they may be unable to access such channels, disadvantaging them further.

Limited access to broadband services in rural locations will impact the borough's ability to attract commercial organisations.
The approval of this match-funding shows good progress is being made, and I shall continue to follow developments closely.

The parish council was also able to confirm what each household will be paying towards its expenditure for 2012/13. As you'll know, an element of the Council Tax bill goes towards the parish council's costs for the year. In December, the council agreed to set its budget at £16,200, and now Rugby Borough Council has informed us as to how this will be reflected within the Council Tax bills that will be hitting doormats soon. Depending on which band your house is in, the parish council's element of the bill will come to:

  • Band A - £30.35
  • Band B - £35.40
  • Band C - £40.46
  • Band D - £45.52
  • Band E - £55.64
  • Band F - £65.75
  • Band G - £75.87
  • Band H - £91.03
This will be a small increase compared to what households paid this year (due largely to taking account of inflationary increases to our costs), but I still believe that at less than 88p a week for a band D equivalent property, the parish council remains good value. Of course, it should also be remembered that added to this amount will be the precepts that are to be levied by Warwickshire County Council, Warwickshire Police Authority and Rugby Borough Council.

Elsewhere on the agenda, there was the usual review of financial matters, comments on recent planning applications that had been submitted, progress updates on a number of projects that were on-going, and consideration of what action could be taken in response to a range of concerns that had been raised during the past month by local residents.

The meeting finished at 10.00pm on a bitterly cold winter's evening, and the next meeting of Shilton Parish Council will be held on Tuesday 6 March at 7.30pm at the Parish Council Meeting Room, Church Road, Shilton.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Police Crime Report - January

Warwickshire Police has released its latest crime report setting out incidents it wishes to draw to the attention of local residents that have occurred in Shilton and Barnacle during the last month. Two incidents have been highlighted:
  • Sunday 1 January - Theft from a Motor Vehicle - Church Road, Shilton
  • Between the hours of 5.00pm and 7.45pm, unknown offenders had taken the spare wheel from a secure, unattended vehicle. No CCTV was available and no house-to-house enquiries were undertaken.
  • Sunday 8 January - Damage - Hallway Drive, Shilton
  • Report that a known offender had smashed a rear car window and was in the street intimidating a resident. Police attended and arrested a male, who was bailed with a condition that he did not subsequently enter a property in Hallway Drive until his court case was heard.
Warwickshire Police has asked that anyone with any information about either of these incidents should call them on (01788) 541111.