After the revels at Stradbroke Cricket Club's annual Race Night fundraiser on Saturday evening, my support of the cricket club took on a rather more practical nature on Sunday morning when a working party of eight of us turned out onto the sunny playing fields to put up some chicken wire fencing to stop cricket balls being lost in the trees and bushes separating the pitch from surrounding fields. My job was to hold the fence posts straight while one of my co-workers hit the post into the ground with a sledge hammer. The sledge hammer only hit my hands twice. Glancing blows, nothing more, so my writing career is safe. My cricket career never was a career, so nothing in danger there anyway.
While we were up on the field, the club's chairman got a text from the club treasurer to let us know that Saturday night's fundraiser had generated over £1,000 for the cricket club, after costs. This is a great result, and goes a long way to meeting the club's annual insurance bill of £1,300. Thanks to all involved, not just by organising, but by turning out on the night. Thanks, especially, go to all the non-cricketers who contributed, once again showing how much at the centre of the community the cricket club is.
Back at home, doing those things normal men do, especially when their wives are away for the weekend, I was taking out the recycling when I bumped into Brian Goffee, a fellow parish councillor candidate, with whom I serve on the board of governors of Stradbroke High School. I had a long conversation with him, his wife, and his overexcitable young dog. What was interesting was that, like all the other candidates I've spoken with so far, Brian's reason for standing is that he wants to see change on the parish council, from what's perceived as standing still, from what's seen as preserving a status quo that goes back decades, change to the parish council being more representative of what the local populace actually thinks and needs, and more responsive to those needs. We're both very happy that an election has been forced rather than anyone who wants to be on the council getting on because there aren't enough candidates to fill all the vacancies. Before this year, there have only been two parish council elections in Stradbroke in the past thirty years. To put this into an even more alarming context: there are over 120 parish councils in Suffolk, and there are only about 10 parish council elections this year. So much for local government democracy. Little surprise then that many parish councils have a reputation even below the reputations of estate agents, bankers, and lawyers.
Over the course of the last two days, I've been asked what my election slogan is. That sounds almost overly grandiose now I read it. But my response has always been, and always will be: Honesty, integrity, accountability. I am not standing because I want to be someone, not because I want to be one of the artificial 21st century gentry some parish councillors nationally perceive themselves to be. I'd always rather be nobody, or only someone on the international writing stage, than a politician. However, I see a desperate need for accountability at local government level, accountability that's just not there at the moment.
Speaking of accountability, Councillor Hargrave made some very important and salient observations in a blog post looking at the prospective financial ramifications of the proposed 54-house Grove Farm development, a development I am already on record as strongly oppposing. It becomes quite clear in Mr Hargrave's post that a small group of councillors assumed it was in their remit to modify the Neighbourhood Plan without reference to the parish council as a whole, and without regard to the wishes of the general public in Stradbroke.
I am NOT opposed to new housing developments in Stradbroke. I am opposed to huge housing developments in Stradbroke (and any other small village). There is room, physically and intellectually, for small developments here, developments of 5-8 houses maximum, which will not put undue pressure on the village's infrastructure nor on its traffic management, developments which would ensure organic growth for the village, not uncontrollable expansion. My personal view is that any planning permission for developments of over 8 houses should be decided by a local referendum, not by planning officers, and that any development of over 5 houses should have 20% affordable housing (whatever affordable housing actually means in these times of continuing - and it is continuing - austerity, and division of the people between haves and have-nots).
Promoted by Richard Pierce-Saunderson of Spring Cottage, Church Street, Stradbroke, Suffolk, IP21 5HT.