July update from WB North Councillor

Nottinghamshire flag

In this blog:

(Click for quick focus on subject) – Report on Full Council; School Places locally (including Lady Bay School and the potential development on Regatta Way); Ratcliffe on Soar incinerator; Roads; Framework.

Also I have been sent the following links that you may be interested in:

>> Green Growth in the Midlands Engine
>> Report your litter bad spots here!
>> Grantham Art Prize
>> NottsCC Survey

Full Council Meeting

The meeting was in person on the hottest day of the year but once again it was pretty well tempered and felt much more constructive than the full council meetings at Rushcliffe Borough Council.

You can find the agenda, minutes and recording on the NottsCC website but here are my highlights (not in chronological order):

The meeting always starts by highlighting local issues via petitions and constituency statements. I am not sure of the value of these generally but it does provide an opportunity to put a spotlight on key issues.. for instance a ‘Gardening for Mental Health’ scheme in one area. If there is a good news story or a particular local problem you would like me to highlight do let me know.

The government have decreed that 25th August will be Nottinghamshire day! (Did you know we had a flag?). In the long run it will be fun to celebrate our area, its talents and history for one day in the year, and we are lucky we got august near the bank holiday! Next year we can plan street parties and events for people who aren’t away on holiday. In writing this article I found this astonishing government website. I would never have guessed that our schools were flying flags for the birthday of the Countess of Wessex? I don’t know much about royalty but she strikes me as the sort of person who wouldn’t really care about things like that.

Linked to the history of our area, a motion was passed asking the government to protect and honour the miners pension fund. This is obviously a very important issue to Nottinghamshire and it received unanimous support. There was a moving discussion involving personal and family experiences of people who worked down or around our pits. It was notable that people from both sides of the 1984 dispute put their feelings aside to come together to do the right thing for their community today. If you are interested in local mining history it is probably worth listening to the online recording (it would have been at about 3pm I think). My grandfather worked was a miner in Gateshead but he died long before I was born. This inspired me to find out more about him.

There was a long discussion about a motion to write to the government about local development including devolution. I believe in localism and subsidiarity with central redistribution, in fact I think it is the only way we can hope to make socialism work. The trouble is that devolution can mean different things to different people and there is a history (from before my time in the council) of it meaning unitary authorities. The motion was written in the context of economic development rather than service delivery or environment and for that reason the Labour Group abstained on the vote.

I had put in a motion to ask for 20 mph speed limits in residential areas which had effectively been accepted by the Tories (they had asked to second it). Unfortunately we ran out of time so we didn’t get to vote on it in the meeting. I will try to raise it at the transport committee and it will be prioritized at the next Full Council meeting, but before taking it back I think I will change it to include a request to look at ways to engineer roads to slow them (e.g. with trees and bushes).

There was a motion asking the government to support free prescriptions which did not pass as the Tories did not support it.

I also asked a question about weed killers. I get the impression from the answer that they are reviewing the use of glycophosphate. I was told that they were not able to inform us in advance of when weedkilling would occur, but I think there may have been a misunderstanding of the timescale that I was considering.. I will follow this up.

School places locally

There is a serious shortage of secondary places in the West Bridgford/Ruddington area, and a likely shortage of primary places in the future. A few weeks ago I held a Town Meeting on Zoom to discuss the County Council’s plan to rebuild Lady Bay School with a new secondary school on Regatta Way. At the meeting a range of views were expressed, and other representations have been made to me since then: feel free to add comments to this padlet notice board. These are the points that I took from the meeting to discuss with the council:

  1. It is absolutely clear that the Lady Bay School building is not fit for purpose and has not been been for a long time. It is said that this is because it is a Grade 2 listed building, although we know that private schools in the UK are in listed buildings (and some state schools have been redeveloped around listed buildings) so it is hard to understand why this is a fundamental issue.
  2. The is a very urgent need for new school places particularly for secondary pupils and it is clear that these places should have been provided before now. Many families in Ruddington are distraught as their children have not got places in local secondary schools. We must not do anything that will slow down the process of sorting this out.
  3. It is possible that if all goes smoothly then a building on Regatta Way could be completed quickly and children could move with minimal disruption to their education. However there is a significant risk that the land on Regatta Way will not be passed as suitable for development by the Environment Agency and so it would seem sensible to be considering alternative plans in parallel.
  4. Building on Regatta Way will inevitably increase car journeys as it is not in the middle of the secondary catchment area and is too far from most of Lady Bay. This will reduce the amount of exercise the children get, reduce their social interactions and expose them to dangerous pollution. Prevailing winds will blow that air pollution over the new school.
  5. There is an alternative site for a secondary school near the canal in Bassingfield.
  6. Moving Lady Bay School will change the Lady Bay ‘City Village’- we should be aiming to create more communities like this, not destroy the ones we have.
  7. A local architect has sketched out a potential plan for a state of the art new school on the Lady Bay site that will make use of the Grade 2 listed building and provide new teaching and play facilities on a series of terraces. Similar designs are becoming common place and can be currently found in Derby and London. He believes that this design can be built more cheaply than a new build and that it will be possible to do it with minimal disruption by moving the portacabins within the site to allow one wing to be built before demolishing the Junior building to construct the second wing.

Last week I finally met with the Council officer responsible for school places. I was astonished to learn that if you move into West Bridgford with a child in year 8 or above you will not get a place in a local secondary school but will be directed elsewhere in the County (as has happened for year 7 pupils in Ruddington this year). Rushcliffe School is being expanded and will become a quite enormous school but this will still not be enough. Primary placements will need to be expanded in the West Bridgford area soon and the County see this as a whole Borough problem rather than a ward level problem. I strongly reject this approach as I strongly believe that children should go to local schools where possible, to help build communities and reduce traffic.

I then spoke to the person responsible for considering new sites for the schools. A few things came out of this meeting. First they do not believe that they will be allowed to make any changes to the Lady Bay School building. I think (though I am not sure) that this comes down to the conservation team at Rushcliffe, so I think that may be where to go next. It also links to the second issue. There is no plan for what will happen to that site if the school leaves. This is a serious issue since, given the problems that there have been finding a long term use for the Methodist Church building, I cannot see how this building will be used (a gym was suggested). Finally, the hydrological surveys on Regatta Way are still ongoing so it is not clear whether building there is possible anyway.

In short.. things are still in flux, but the officers are now aware of the various concerns which I am not sure they were originally.

Ratcliffe on Soar Incinerator

The planning application for this was not called in by the Secretary of State so I think that means that planning approval has been given. However this development would go against the climate targets set by Notts CC in May, and if a new recycling contract can be negotiated then I think the whole plan may be economically unviable anyway. Further discussions are ongoing.

Roads

The main job of a councillor is to help residents with their issues related to transport. I am now having regular (two monthly) meetings with the Divisional Officer at Via responsible for this area which is a much better way to take things forward. I won’t name her but she is very responsive and proactive and we are lucky to have her. I will post the lists of work to be done across West Bridgford North on Facebook and also as far as possible on the local notice boards.

Related to this I am on the new working group looking at road maintenance (the pot hole problem!) I have a clear idea on what the problem may be, but I will wait for the end of the information gathering period to decide for certain. That said we did go on an interesting day trip to Bilsthorpe to see the work done by the road maintenance teams working for Via, who were very impressive. I will never see a pothole in the same way again!

I have been in touch with our new Neighbourhood Policing Inspector. He is doing some work around trying to cut speeding. I have sent him the names of a number of areas that residents have identified to me as being a problem.

Framework

Last week I met with a small community group who attempt to work with the Framework hostel on Trent Boulevard for the benefit of the residents and community. There is a bit of work to be done to renew personal relationships after lockdown, but it was great to see this proactive approach to addressing local issues. I have arranged to visit Framework on Trent Boulevard after the summer.

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