Icy pavements a potential financial nightmare for the council tax

This makes interesting reading. I wonder why the county council aren’t being given a hard time about this every hour on the hour? If it’s a legal duty, why doesn’t the government fund this work properly?

Councils have a legal responsibility to keep pavements safe.
Under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980, a council has a duty to ensure that the highway is safe to use, as far as reasonable, and specifically that it is not made dangerous for pedestrians by snow and ice. The highway includes the footway (as defined in section 329 of the same Act). On top of this, under section 150 of the Highways Act 1980, councils have a duty to remove a deposit of snow from the highway if it is an obstacle. The public can complain to a magistrate if this duty is not carried out.

Can councils realistically do anything about this?
They can and they should – they have the legal duty to ensure clear and safe highways, including pavements. Living Streets has collected some great examples where councils have taken this issue seriously. Realistically councils will need to prioritise where they use scarce resources – which is why it is so important to make the case that a huge proportion of the most essential local journeys, particularly for some of the most vulnerable people, are made on foot.

http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/make-a-change/urgent-actions/call-for-ice-free-pavements#info

Wind Farm Noise does damage

Wind farm noise does harm sleep and health, say scientists
Wind farm noise causes “clear and significant” damage to people’s sleep and mental health, according to the first full peer-reviewed scientific study of the problem.

Research has proved there windfarms can have a direct impact on sleep and mental health (GETTY)

By Andrew Gilligan Daily Telegraph
Saturday 3rd November 2012

American and British researchers compared two groups of residents in the US state of Maine. One group lived within a mile of a wind farm and the second group did not.
Both sets of people were demographically and socially similar, but the researchers found major differences in the quality of sleep the two groups enjoyed.
The findings provide the clearest evidence yet to support long-standing complaints from people living near turbines that the sound from their rotating blades disrupts sleep patterns and causes stress-related conditions.
The study will be used by critics of wind power to argue against new turbines being built near homes and for existing ones to be switched off or have their speed reduced, when strong winds cause their noise to increase.
The researchers used two standard scientific scales, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which measures the quality of night-time sleep, and the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, which measures how sleepy people feel when they are awake.
“Participants living near industrial wind turbines had worse sleep, as evidenced by significantly greater mean PSQI and ESS scores,” the researchers, Michael Nissenbaum, Jeffery Aramini and Chris Hanning, found.
“There were clear and significant dose-response relationships, with the effect diminishing with increasing log-distance from turbines.”
The researchers also tracked respondents’ “mental component scores” and found a “significant” link – probably caused by poor-quality sleep – between wind turbines and poorer mental health.
More than a quarter of participants in the group living near the turbines said they had been medically diagnosed with depression or anxiety since the wind farm started. None of the participants in the group further away reported such problems.
Each person was also asked if they had been prescribed sleeping pills. More than a quarter of those living near the wind farm said they had. Less than a tenth of those living further away had been prescribed sleeping pills.
According to the researchers, the study, in the journal Noise and Health, is the first to show clear relationships between wind farms and “important clinical indicators of health, including sleep quality, daytime sleepiness and mental health”.
Unlike some common forms of sleep-disturbing noise, such as roads, wind turbine noise varies dramatically, depending on the wind direction and speed. Unlike other forms of variable noise, however, such as railways and aircraft, it can continue for very long
periods at a time. The nature of the noise — a rhythmic beating or swooshing of the blades — is also disturbing. UK planning guidance allows a night-time noise level from wind farms of 42 decibels – equivalent to the hum made by a fridge.
This means that turbines cannot be built less than 380-550 yards from human habitation, with the exact distance depending on the terrain and the size of the turbines.
However, as local concern about wind farm noise grows, many councils are now drawing up far wider cordons. Wiltshire, for instance, has recently voted to adopt minimum distances of between 0.6 to 1.8 miles, depending on the size of the turbines.
Dr Lee Moroney, director of planning at the Renewable Energy Foundation, said: “The UK noise limits were drawn up 16 years ago, when wind turbines were less than half the current size. Worse still, the guidelines permit turbines to be built so close to houses that wind turbine noise will not infrequently be clearly audible indoors at night time, so sleep impacts and associated health effects are almost inevitable.
“This situation is obviously unacceptable and creating a lot of angry neighbours, but the industry and government response is slow and very reluctant. Ministers need to light a fire under their civil servants.”
The research will add to the growing pressure on the wind farm industry, which was attacked last week by the junior energy minister, John Hayes, for the way in which turbines have been “peppered around the country without due regard for the interests of the local community or their wishes”. Saying “enough is enough”, Mr Hayes appeared to support a moratorium on new developments beyond those already in the pipeline.
He was slapped down by his Lib Dem boss, Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, but is unlikely to have made his remarks without some kind of nod from the top of Government. George Osborne, the Chancellor, is known to be increasingly sceptical about the effectiveness of wind power, which is heavily subsidised but delivers relatively little reduction in carbon dioxide.
Wind farms generate about a quarter of their theoretical capacity because the wind does not always blow at the required speeds. Earlier this year, more than 100 Tory MPs urged David Cameron to block the further expansion of wind power.
Whatever the Government decides, however, may not matter.
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the EU will shortly begin work on a new directive which may impose a binding target for further renewable energy, mostly wind, on the UK. There is already a target, which is also Government policy, that 20 per cent of energy should come from renewables by 2020.
But Brussels is considering imposing an even higher mandatory target to be met over the following decade, according to Gunther Oettinger, the EU energy commissioner. “I want an interesting discussion on binding targets for renewables by 2030,” he said earlier this year.
Two weeks ago, a senior member of his staff, Jasmin Battista, said that Mr Oettinger was “open to” forced targets, though no decision had been made.
The European Parliament has voted for mandatory increases in renewables by 2030 and Mr Davey has also said he favours them. The issue will be considered at a European Council of Ministers meeting next month.
Politics
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012

Spalding Primary School expansion plan problems

Up to now I, along with my fellow ward councillor, have attempted to be as helpful as possible in respect of the county council’s attempts to increase primary education provision in Spalding. A s106 that gave LCC 1.5 hectares of land and £1.3m towards the provision of a brand new school, was due to terminate in 2013, meaning that the county would of been left with no means of increasing the education provision, other than by raiding its own rapidly diminishing coffers. Loss of these funds and the associated land would leave the county council with an ever increasing number of children to accommodate, but no money to do it with – hence our very qualifed support.

The county council have moved very quickly from the provision of a new school on the s106 land, to using the associated money to expand Spalding Primary School. The school already suffers from significant issues regarding traffic congestion and parking. My attempts to offer a radical solution to both the existing and the inevitable future parking and traffic problems have apparently not found favour with the county council. Also, having now seen the architect’s plans for the so called extension, my support for this plan is melting away faster than the latest fall of snow. Not only has the extension become a totally separate building, of virtually equal size to the main body of the existing school, the traffic and parking solutions being suggested are, in my opinion, nothing of the sort and will not offer any relief from the daily misery visited on residents.

Unfortunately, the county council is able to give itself planning permission for such schemes and given their remote and too often high-handed attitude to local issues, I am fearful that the residents concerns will be over-shadowed by ‘the greater needed’, or worse still, ‘the bigger picture’.

Lincolnshire County Council education department have gotten themselves in to this mess by failing to forward plan and build on the opportunity presented by having a large area of land available and a £1.3m pot of money. Had they started budgetting from the moment the planning application was approved, I am sure they would of had a significant pot of money to add to the index linked sum now about to become available to them. Instead, they have chosen to use only the s106 money to squeeze what is effectively a 210 place infant’s school, on to the same site as an already full to capacity junior school.

in an urban location, where many of the children would be taken to and from school by either public transport, or Shanks’s Pony, this type of over-development might be acceptable, because whilst the school might be very busy, the roads and streets around it would be little affected by the comings and goings of parents and children. Unfortunately for LCC, this situation does not apply at Spalding Primary School and a large number of children are transported there by private car, all of which must find space to manoeuvre and park in the streets around the school.

The combination of an enlarged school and inadequate traffic and parking solutions, means that residents will very likely have to endure even greater problems should these plans go ahead.
We have organised a public meeting at the school on 5th March at 7pm, so that the public can come along, hear more about the plans and most importantly have their say.

Shortfall of 450,000 primary school places

Figures have revealed that the English school system will need to provide more than 450,000 primary school places by September 2015. The LGA responded by calling for better forecasting methods for future demand to identify where the big increases are likely over five to 10 years.

This is particularly relevant for us in Spalding Wygate, given the county council’s proposal to extend extend Spalding Primary School. Shouldn’t the county council show more foresight and actually build the new school on Wygate Park rather than just extend an existing school that is already too big for its available parking area?

Network Rail yet to build bridges with public

it looks like the saga of the lighting, or rather the lack of it, on Steppingstone Bridge in Spalding might be coming to an end in the new year.  However, whilst Network Rail appear to have agreed  to fund the work required, following discussions with the county council, they deserve little real credit.

Having communicated with a number of national organisations I can safely say, without reservation, that Network Rail is by far the most arrogant and un-cooperative I have ever dealt with.  Almost since the first day the new (secondhand) bridge was opened, people have been complaining about the lack of lighting and the standing water on the top deck.

I alone must have registered at least four complaints, with the inappropriately named, customer service dept in York, about these problems.  Each and every time I was promised a call from their local representative and each and every time it never happened.

Of course Network Rail makes a point of not ignoring everybody, especially when it’s the local MP.  Only a week or so ago, I was told that the county council was still awaiting written confirmation, from Network Rail, that they are willing to finance the work to move the currently non-working light.  Then, by pure chance, I was emailed a copy of a letter sent to John Hayes by Network Rail, stating that they are just waiting for the completion of legal agreements before carrying out the work!  It would seem that Network Rail doesn’t even have the good manners to communicate with the other party to this work, the county council, so what chance does a minor politican like myself have?

I would like to think the passing in to law of the Localism Bill would eventually lead to the building of bridges (pardon the pun) between faceless organisations such as Network Rail and the public.  Unfortunately, based on my personal experience to date, there’s more chance of HS2 being built this century!

DIY SOS offers me a bizarre contrast

I watched DIY SOS on Thurs night. Nick Knowles and his team, along with dozens of local volunteers, were carrying out their biggest ever challenge, to modernise a rundown youth club in Norris Green, Liverpool.
Local people were shown saying how important the club was to their community and how it had saved many local kids from going off of the rails. Everybody who spoke was determined to see the club succeed and were committed to doing their bit both now and in the future.
We have a successful and popular youth club in Spalding, that was refurbished by the county council about 18 months ago. However, since then the opening hours of the club have been cut to only one day a week for less than three hours.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, a meeting I attended recently, along with a couple of other Spalding councillors and arranged by the county council, was asked for ideas on how to keep the club going beyond April next year. It seems more than a little ludicrous that the Nick Knowles team, along with dozens of volunteer tradesmen and women, spent nine days and an estimated 18000 man hours in Liverpool, creating something that Spalding may well be about to loose.