Caddington ward covers the six parishes of Hyde, Slip End, Caddington, Kensworth, Whipsnade & Studham
Individual parish council websites (where available) can be reached by clicking on the names aboves.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

An alternative view of what's best for Caddington

A reporter for the Luton News / Herald and Post was, unsurprisingly, covering the airport expansion decision on Friday (a topic covered by my fellow councillor, Richard Stay, on his blog).  When this reporter commented on twitter about a poll, Mr Dan Heley took the opportunity to ask her a different question - had she considered polling people about the possibility of housing expansion West of Luton towards Caddington?

Mr Heley, you may remember, stood for the Labour Party in this ward in 2011 but feels that perhaps Caddington and Slip End are represented by the wrong council in being part of Central Bedfordshire rather than becoming part of Luton Borough.

I can tell you that the Neighbourhood Plan Questionnaire distributed around the two parishes earlier this year included a question about whether the parishes should be making additional provision (over and above housing need for the villages) to accommodate extra housing for neighbouring authorities.  The questionnaire was completed and returned by 947 people, a significantly high 38% of the total sent out.  A resounding 60% of respondents were "strongly opposed" to the suggestion of housing expansion by neighbouring authorities and a further 15% opposed.  I think that the message is clear that people in these villages do not want Luton to expand into the green belt and threaten rural communities with coalescence with the town.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but if Mr Heley were to knock on a few doors around here, I think that he would find very little support for his notion of "being in LBC remit".  A lot of people have told me that they moved out to the villages from the town; precious few have ever expressed a desire to relocate the other way and none want to see the developed, urban borders of Luton Borough coming any further west.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

"Right to Grow" is undemocratic

Caddington ward spans six parishes and encompasses a number of villages and hamlets plus a significant amount of green space and areas of outstanding natural beauty.  None of this area of Bedfordshire could (yet) be described as built up or urban.

Caddington and Slip End are already well underway with their Neighbourhood Plan and Kensworth are just starting theirs.  It's a great opportunity for communities to try and shape their future, recognise the housing and facilities needed and a far more sensible approach than allowing large scale urban sprawl to be imposed by others.

Caddington, Slip End and Hyde have a particularly noisy neighbour in the form of Luton, a large town with Coming to your villagemany problems.  Central Bedfordshire have a duty to co-operate with Luton on unmet housing need and efforts are made on both sides of the boundary to find sustainable solutions.  Sadly, some discussions feel like trying to negotiate with the school bully as more and more demands are made.

Ed Miliband's latest proposal is to do away with discussion and negotiation and instead grant (Labour controlled) towns a right to push through development on land within the boundaries of other (non Labour) authorities.  It is undemocratic and a license to destroy the green belt.

Caddington, Slip End and Hyde fall within the parliamentary constituency of Luton South; Gavin Shuker has confirmed that he supports his leader's "right to grow" policy.  Sadly, the constituents in the villages are greatly outnumbered by constituents in Luton and so, as you can't please everyone, it would be fair to assume that Labour are prepared to sacrifice rural areas in favour of high-rises and concrete.  Remember that if they knock on your door campaigning ahead of the 2015 election.

Your Central Bedfordshire Councillors will oppose this madness.  It would be interesting to hear whether your MP is interested in opinions this side of the motorway.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Could you use the lollipop girls at your event?

There has been some very sad news emerging this morning concerning the Winter Wonderland in Milton Keynes, which promised so much but it would seem delivered very little.

The Papworth Trust is a leading disability charity who support over 20,000 people each year.  They had hoped to have a presence at Winter Wonderland but following the serious issues on the opening day have taken the hard decision to withdraw their volunteers and end their association with the event.

The local connection is that a lovely lady, Sarah Eacope, was due to be there with her family run business "The Lollipop Girls".  Sarah's daughter (who has cerebral palsy) had been asked to open the event and then the Lollipop Girls would be selling delicious cakes and treats, with every sale generating a donation to the Papworth Trust.

Through no fault of their own, the Lollipop Girls have had to withdraw at the last moment which has left them with plenty of stock and no chance to sell!  If anyone has an event which could offer the girls space for their stall, it could be your chance to get some friendly, cheerful people dispensing tasty treats and supporting The Papworth Trust as well.  Sarah can be contacted on 01582 457945.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Chaulington exhibition 06 & 07 December

I have received a postcard reminding me of the upcoming exhibition; I expect that every household in Caddington should have received the same notification.

Considering the placement in a rural setting, the vehicle storage site was always going to pose a conundrum when it reached the end of its useful life in its current form.  The original planning permission was explicitly for vehicle storage, so the site remains green belt and a good case needs to be established to allow development.  Conversely, a large concrete car park is probably what most people would consider a brownfield site and hence more suitable for development than virgin green land.

There are also serious concerns surrounding traffic levels along Chaul End Road and the impact of increasing them further.  However, as there are undoubtedly existing problems even before the use of the site is altered, is this perhaps an opportunity to deliver positive changes which might relieve some of the pressure?

It is not appropriate for me to declare as either "for" or "against" Chaulington*, and it is important to note that final proposals and detail are a long way from being locked in.  General Motors and their advisors could easily have gone directly to the principle planning authority, ignoring the local community, and pushed for high density development based on general housing need in the South-East of England.  I am glad that they eschewed such a bully-boy approach and instead have engaged with the community via the Neighbourhood Plan team, local CBC councillors and, of course, public events open to all.

Whether you are for, against or undecided, I would encourage as many people as possible to attend the exhibition this coming weekend.  Engage with the planners, seek explanations and communicate any concerns and, hopefully, the way forward will be an outcome of which General Motors can be proud and Caddington residents regard as more gain than loss.

* I don't think anyone particularly cares for the name "Chaulington", it is just a useful working title.  If any of you are feeling creative, please make your suggestions known!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Election result

Sometimes you can see a clear pattern emerging at an election count; other times, every batch of votes seems to tell a significantly different story and you just can not guess the overall result.

Last night at Chicksands definitely fell into the second category.  We shall gloss over the collapsing LibDem vote, but all the other candidates were consistently recording votes as each paper was counted.  By-elections are notoriously unpredictable, with typically low turnouts and people more likely to switch their vote away from their usual preference.
Caddington ward by-election 28 November 2013

The final result was a clear win for the Conservatives, although share of the vote was spread more widely than in 2011.  Many, many thanks to all those who worked on the campaign and also to everybody that supported me with their vote.

Caddington Parish Council

Alongside the election for the CBC ward, there was also an election yesterday to fill the vacancy on Caddington Parish Council.

The count was incredibly tight, so much so that the officers decided on an immediate recount to be sure.

Congratulations to Sarah Eacope, winner by 391 votes to 388.  Commiserations to Christine Smith, who campaigned hard and came a very close second.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Confirm support with votes

Election day is almost upon us.

It has been good to speak with so many of you in the last few weeks and I hope that I will be able to continue to do so as your elected councillor from Friday onwards.

Guaranteed tail wag if you vote Collins
Tory Dog - guaranteed tail wag every time someone votes Collins!

I have heard a lot of positive comments during the campaign, as have the rest of my hard-working team.  Thank you, it is much appreciated.

It is VITAL that we translate pledges into actual votes tomorrow - polling stations are open from 7AM until 10PM.  If you have already voted postally, thankyou for your support.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Kensworth consider a Neighbourhood Plan

Sometimes with a public meeting, you just can't predict how many people might turn up but you hope it will be a decent number.  Gathered in Kensworth Village Hall last night, the recurrent phrase I heard as we neared the official start time was "we are going to need more chairs!"  Out came the chairs and in came more people.  The rough head count was 70, an excellent turn out on a cold November evening.

The meeting was opened by Mrs Pat Mitchell, chair of Kensworth Parish Council, ably assisted by her vice-chair John Worboys.  I had been invited along, together with Cllr Richard Stay, to share our experiences in the work to date on the Caddington & Slip End Neighbourhood Plan.

Discussion was initially about the recent legislation that has introduced Neighbourhood Planning and what, in practical terms, the process can achieve for parishes like Kensworth.  The simple question being explored was "Is this a good thing for the village to be contemplating?"

There was some healthy debate, Cllr Stay and I offering extra detail where we could and answered questions, and some interesting ideas began to emerge as to what might be achievable.  This eventually led to the question being put to the room "is Neighbourhood Planning a good idea for Kensworth?"; almost every hand went up in support and none against.  Volunteers were invited to leave contact details so that the process of forming a team can begin.

Preparing a Neighbourhood Plan is extremely hard work, but our experience in Caddington & Slip End is that it can also be very rewarding.  An effective team comprises a good cross-section of the community and it is amazing the specialised skills and knowledge that can be revealed amongst people that you previously knew nothing more about than the fact they live in the same village as you.  I wish the people of Kensworth well in their endeavours, and will be happy to lend whatever practical assistance I can.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Independent thought (as dictated by someone else!)

After a busy morning delivering the latest "In Touch" flyer, I was passed a copy of the latest offering from one of the alternate candidates in next week's by-election.

Follow the leader
I am both amused and bemused by the continuing claim that having no party membership guarantees that a potential councillor will be (as quoted from the flyer) "free minded".  This claim is promoted and published by Julian Murray, a former Labour Party member who is now the self-appointed leader of his own 'independent' group.

Any councillor should know their own mind and vote according to their best judgement; I do not believe that belonging to a group of people with a broadly similar viewpoint robs you of the ability to make your own decisions.  Indeed, if you are familiar with the facts and have established a good argument then it follows that you can persuade colleagues of the merits of your position and gain their support also.

What does frustrate me is someone claiming that they are the voice of independent thought whilst apparently taking direction on how to make such a claim!  If you make duplicitous claims, you sometimes (metaphorically) get your fingers bitten.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Election Posters

Polling day will be with us very soon; it is important that everyone who supports the campaign actually casts their vote!
Remember the date and remind your friends.

Caddington Parish also has a parish council election on the same day.

If anyone needs help getting to the polling station, please get in touch.

Your polling card may be a useful aid, but it is not essential to vote.  If you are on the electoral register, then you will be on the list held at the polling station.

If anyone is willing and able to display a poster, please get in touch.

We have A4 & A3 copies, encapsulated to protect them from the weather, and are happy to drop one off for any supporter to display.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Old Hunters Lodge

Last night was the annual Caddington, Slip End & Hyde branch association dinner which returned to a venue that he treated us well in the past, The Old Hunters Lodge on Whipsnade Common.  They treated us well again; excellent food and drink in a charming setting.  Many thanks to the landlady and her hard working team; thanks also to Cllr Richard Stay for ensuring that everything ran smoothly.

It was a chance to catch up with Conservative colleagues from across Central Bedfordshire and Luton South and also good to see the event supported by some loyal friends from the villages.  Included amongst the guests was Ruth Gammons, who was presented with gifts in recognition of her many years service.

Caddington Slip End and Hyde Conservatives
Richard Fuller MP
It was also a chance to listen to Richard Fuller, Member of Parliament for Bedford & Kempston.  He claimed a certain reluctance to venture too far from Bedford for evening engagements; Richard, I am glad that we tempted you to make an exception and you would be most welcome to join us again in the future!  Thought provoking and entertaining in equal measure, he is the perfect guest to round off a successful evening.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Campaign continues door to door

I have been out and about this week accompanied by other Bedfordshire Conservatives speaking to people about the by-election.  It is now less than two weeks away.

We have been getting a lot of positive feedback; plenty of people have commented on the good work done for this ward by Ruth Gammons and Richard Stay and I pledge that if elected to succeed Ruth at Central Bedfordshire I will continue that positive trend.

We will be out again today - I am looking forward to meeting you!

Friday, 15 November 2013

An evening in Kensworth

I spent some time yesterday evening listening to the debate at Kensworth Parish Council; the meeting included visiting speaker David Bowie (Head of Service Traffic Management at Central Bedfordshire Council) and I was joined in the public seating by some Kensworth residents.

Common Road is central to Kensworth village, has a long straight section and is classified as a "B" road.  This combination of factors means that the road carries a lot of traffic, much of which chooses to ignore the published speed limits, yet there are limitations on the sort of obstructive measures which can be placed on a significant through route.  As technology moves on, there may be options to upgrade existing speed cameras (newer digital models capture traffic in both directions at one, they do not just point one way) or perhaps even an average-speed installation which could monitor speed through the village rather than just past a specific fixed camera site.

None of these things can happen overnight, but it is good to be investigating what might be possible.  The Parish Council can now have an informed discussion around potential costs (and to what degree funding assistance might be available from the local authority) and possible ways forward.  Revised road markings and signage around areas like the school might also be considered, especially if this can be co-ordinated with practical enforcement of the regulations to ensure that traffic rules are obeyed and so danger to pedestrians and other road users is minmised.

There is no quick and easy fix, but at least the problem is being looked at in a sensible and pro-active way.  I am also conscious that Slip End has similar straight road / speeding issues and are doing their best to tackle the problem.  These are not issues that we are likely to ever completely eradicate, but continued dialogue and positive action can, at least, keep safety as the top priority and minmise the disruption to people's enjoyment of village life.

I will be back in Kensworth next week to talk about Neighbourhood Planning.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

In Touch: by-election campaign continues

Parish Council meetings

These meetings are, of course, open to the public and so I thought that I would call in at Whipsnade last night having already been to Hyde last week.

It's a great chance to keep up to date with issues within the parishes - I know from my experience as a parish councillor that a good working relationship with the ward councillor is mutually beneficial.  Parish Councils have a different function to the unitary authority; it is important to understand those roles and then how to co-ordinate both for the benefit of the communities.

Many thanks to the councillors of Hyde and then Whipsnade, all of whom gave a warm welcome.  It is interesting to compare what the various parishes have in common in the way that they approach their role, and where they differ.

In the interests of balance, it was pointed out to these Parish Councils that I am not the only candidate for Caddington Ward in the by-election, even if I was the only one to show an interest in Parish Council meetings.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

No boundary changes

What is it with labour candidates trying to redefine where we are?

One of the previous contenders to represent this ward is of the opinion that Caddington & Slip End belong in Luton, not Central Bedfordshire.  I think that the residents of those villages disagree and will fight to protect their rural character; the villages do not want to be consumed by urban sprawl.

The latest Labour candidate is sending out letters defining the ward as Caddington, Kensworth, Slip End, Studham & Whipsnade.  I would like to reassure the good people of Hyde that, if elected, I will not forget you and will ensure that your Parish, like all the other in the ward, receives the attention it deserves.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The rain in Slip End falls mainly on the canvassers

Okay, so this morning's weather wasn't the best for walking the streets of Slip End, but we still received a warm welcome from many of the residents.

Thanks to Cllr Dave Bowater and Cllr James Jamieson (leader of Central Bedfordshire Council) for joining me on a Saturday morning; it was a chance to chat with a good number of residents and an opportunity to listen to your thoughts and concerns about the area.  We will be back to cover the roads that we didn't have time for today, and I will be doing my best (along with colleagues) to get round as many places as possible across the six parishes during this campaign.

I did also notice a team in different colours circulating around Caddington village, although the feedback seems to be that they were only delivering leaflets and not actually pausing to discuss policies.  Probably in a rush to get back to Barton-le-Clay, they had a long journey home to contend with!

CVS annual fireworks display

Further to my previous post, last night witnessed one of the more popular recurring events on the Caddington social calendar, the fireworks display on the school field.

The weather was relatively kind to us in the evening with no rain (it had been heavy earlier in the day) and only minimal wind.  There was a large and good-natured crowd and the people behind the burgers & hotdogs stand and the adjacent drinks table were kept busy throughout; they must be doing something right!

The whole event runs smoothly because of excellent organization by the PTA and their willing band of helpers; many thanks to you all, you know who you are.  Special credit is due to Steve Rumball and his team, who have put on these displays for many years now and who never fail to put on a spectacular show.

Local artist & photogapher Neil Smith took some great pictures, click here to view.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Fireworks, fireworks & more fireworks

This may be a little late for this year as both Diwahli and November 5th have passed, but the comment is still worth making and hopefully people will keep it in mind for the future.

I have been hearing some truly upsetting tales about dogs and other pets which have been injured because of their sheer panic at the noise.

Firework displays can be great fun and are a good chance for the community to gather together, but most people are within range of an "official" display at a school, social club, village field or similar.  It would be nice if people would support those events and forgo letting fireworks off at home; you can still celebrate with friends before or after the official displays without the need for fireworks in the back garden.  That way, there is some predictability around when the noises will be happening and people caring for nervous animals have a chance to deal with the problem.  What seems to happen now is that there are fireworks let off at random times every night for what is apparently an increasingly extended period every year, making the disturbance impossible to predict.

Friday, 1 November 2013

People willing to travel to stand in the Caddington by-election

The official statement of persons nominated has now been issued by Central Bedfordshire Council.

Alongside myself respresenting the Conservatives, there are candidates for Labour, the Lib-Dems and UKIP plus one independent.  From that list, two candidates live outside the ward and one more has only very recently registered his address locally (having previously been registered in Watford).

We are always happy to welcome visitors to this corner of Bedfordshire; I hope that the above map will help newcomers find their way around.

Nominations close today

The deadline for nominations to be handed in is noon today; soon we will know the official list of who will be contesting this by-election.  Rumours suggest that we can expect a 'local' candidate who has failed at least three times in attempts to be elected to Watford Borough Council and an 'independent' candidate who uses someone else to write their flyers for them.

We also have an ex-candidate who came a poor third in 2011 suggesting that the conservatives have no chance this time around; I am fairly sure that he is wrong!

It's going to be an interesting few weeks.........

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Election day 28 November 2013

There will be a by-election on Thursday 28 November 2013 for the vacancy in Caddington ward, Central Bedfordshire Council.  The full candidate list will be published in early November; I am pleased to confirm that I will be on it.

I look forward to meeting as many people as possible in the coming four weeks to talk about what is right for our parishes, and how I hope to help you protect them.