Late Summer 2017
By County Councillor Jessica Fleming, Hartismere Division, Suffolk
Jessica.email@example.com Tel: 07714-597980 Twitter: @jesstfleming
Last time I wrote which was around April the County Council election was pending and nobody anticipated the General Election in June. I retained my seat in Suffolk with an increased majority and wish to belatedly thank all those who supported me as I will continue to support everyone whom I represent for the coming term. Things have moved on now, there is a Conservative majority in Suffolk and nationally the Conservatives remain in power with a reduced number of MPs and a confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic and Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland. Some may be uncomfortable with a DUP alliance but my position is very open about it – working constructively with the all parts of the island of Ireland will be crucial given the coming negotiations and importance of agriculture, trade and historical links.
Locally the summer has provided an opportunity for a pause in political activity which is most timely, very little happens in August at the County Council, more has been happening at the Districts where planning applications have not paused at all. Before the summer recess the County Council agreed a new set of Strategic Priorities which are ‘Inclusive Growth’, Health and Wellbeing, and Efficient & Effective Local Government. I will touch on the first, Inclusive Growth, as I am aware that many of you share my aspiration that growth (mostly as new housing development) should not be at the expense of degrading the environment or the quality of life that we are privileged to enjoy in Suffolk and which undoubtedly could be compromised by high levels of development in the absence of strategic planning. The prosperity we hope for should benefit everyone, and include businesses of all sizes and types. But at the same time we need houses. Herein lies the rub, so to speak, as getting the balance right will be critical and much will fall on the County Council to provide leadership and example in the coming years, and on all local authorities (parishes included) to work together in good faith. The public too can play a role in speaking out and participating in the debates and processes that may appear dull and unfruitful but are nevertheless of great importance.
More locally still, Mellis and surrounds have been fairly quiet lately (farmers excepted). During July I attended meetings with Drax (having bought out Progress Power) in Eye and with Council planners about the future of the power plant and substation. Drax intends to bid for gas supply contracts in February 2018 and this time it is likely that the project will be successful and construction of the plant etc could begin. Before that goes ahead two things need to happen that will involve local communities: some project details including the substation compound will be agreed with Mid Suffolk as lead planning authority, and a way of administering the Community Benefit funds promised by Progress Power will need to be set up. The substation may be no larger in scale than permitted in the Consent Order and is likely to be smaller as the selected gas insulating technology has been refined since approval in 2015. It is likely that community benefit funds will be held jointly by Mid Suffolk and Suffolk County Council and decisions about how to use them will be made by a panel to include representatives from affected parishes, the councils and the operator. I will provide more information and guidance on how to get involved as it becomes available.
This has been a rather serious article but perhaps reflective of the times we are in. It has been a beautiful summer and the weather this August holiday weekend has not disappointed. It is now time to roll up sleeves again and prepare for the next season.
Please get in touch with me about any issues that are of concern or about which you would like to know more.