Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


Sir Humphrey finally finishes the job

At last!: The Gladstone-Foxhall path is finally paved

It only took three years and two months but Ipswich Borough Council civil servants have finally got their act together and completed the paving of a 20 metre stretch of dirt track, which is heavily used by residents and shoppers every day.

Lighting please: New path at night
Back in August 2009, when I was an elected Conservative councillor, the Committee I chaired – Community Improvements – approved the spending of funds to finish off what the East of England Cooperative Society should have done when they built there new food store on Foxhall Road back in 2005, paid for out of their Section 106 money.
But then the lawyer at Ipswich Borough Council – known for her Labour Party sympathies – got involved and put a spanner in the works. You see the path is in Holywells Ward – a Conservative ward. But of course that had nothing to do with the obfuscation and delay by bureaucrats at Grafton House!
It took another 18 months before the Community Improvements decision was taken to the Executive Committee by Borough officers. The Executive duly approved it without even a whimper. Then some strange Local Government law was invoked by the said lawyer, which meant after Executive Committee approval of the Community Improvements Committee decision approval the decision also had to go to the Full Council of 48 councillors for a green light! Even the Soviet Union wasn’t this bureaucratic. Unsurprisingly, a confused Council in March 2011 nodded through the decision already made by two Committees.
Action: Ipswich Borough Council workmen “hard at work”
And then another one and half years passed before the workmen arrived on site. I am told during this time a design for the new path had to be written – 18 months to design how to lay concrete slabs!!
But now the work is done and local residents and shoppers can enjoy walking to the shopping parade on Foxhall Road without worrying unduly about what undesirable items are underfoot. The path is now adopted by Ipswich Borough Council, which means they must clean it and litter pick. Hurrah!!
Now, we just need some lighting.

1 Comment

Better late than never

Finally: Council begins paving the Gladstone-Foxhall Road footpath

Breaking News. Hold the front page. Well, it wouldn’t be such a big deal if Ipswich Borough Council hadn’t taken three years and two months to implement a councillor decision.

That’s how long ago it was that my Committee agreed to spend what in the grand scheme of things is a tiny amount of money paving the remainder of the heavily used footpath between Gladstone Road and Foxhall Road alongside the Co-op store.  If planners at the Borough had half a brain between them they would have got the Co-op to pay for the WHOLE path and not just the bit alongside their premises out of their Section 106 money when they built their new shop on Foxhall Road back in the boom year of 2005. But I guess civil servants only pretend to care about the public part of public sector when they are trying to cream even more money off the State into their own pockets.

So after my Community Improvements Committee approved the paving of this urban dirt track back in August 2009, after the Executive Committee approved it, after all 48 councillors at a full meeting of the Council approved it, after two questions at Full Council, after extensive lobbying by Cllr Liz Harsant and newly elected Cllr Pam Stewart, and of course after my persistent blogging, Ipswich Borough Council’s workmen finally turned up this week to start laying the concrete slabs!



Gladstone Road/Foxhall Road footpath update

A “level survey” was conducted by the Council yesterday

I was advised yesterday that Ipswich Borough Council engineers were conducting a survey at the footpath site. The survey is called a “level survey” and is something to do with the drainage that would need to be built when the path is eventually paved.

My source was good as, in typical public sector style, I saw two orange-fluorescent attired men and what looked like a student placement young man get back into their Borough Council pool car yesterday lunchtime. How many engineers does it take to measure the levels of a dirt track came to mind?

Let’s hope they can now get the design for the path completed – how difficult can it be to design the laying of concrete slabs?


Sir Humphrey’s contempt for elected representatives: Part VII

On Sunday I blogged that the third consultation period for the path expired on 29th June and, as Holywells Councillor Liz Harsant told me, there were no objections by residents.

Newly elected Holywells Councillor Pam Stewart contacted the officer in charge of the footpath creation scheme for an update.

His reply is re-produced below:

Now that the date of 29/06 has come and gone, I have requested that the final design for the footpath be undertaken as a matter of urgency to enable programming by Highway Services team for construction.

have copied the officer dealing with this scheme into this email so you can contact him directly.  I will also request that he keeps you informed of scheme progress

So we still have no clear date when the works, approved by elected representatives from all political parties at my Committee in August 2009, will take place.

This is becoming a bit of a joke. This dirt track was approved for paving by elected representatives of the appropriate Ipswich Borough Council committee, was approved by all 48 elected representatives of the Full Council, was legally cleared for progression on 18th May this year and has completed three consultation periods and still we have no idea when the first paving slab will be laid.

The contempt for democracy by officers at Ipswich Borough Council is quite disgraceful. I wonder if the 
path was in Gipping Ward or Gainsborugh Ward we would have had such foot-dragging behaviour from the mandarins at Grafton House.


Sir Humphrey’s contempt for elected representatives: Part VI

As you know from the last time I wrote about this, the issue of the still unpaved pathway between Gladstone Road and Foxhall Road is my pet project on this blog. Unsurprisingly, the dirt track is still not paved.

The weeds and the dirt still remain three years on

The latest and third consultation period, after the footpath creation order was published in May, ended last Friday 29th June. I spoke with my ward councillor, Liz Harsant, yesterday who advised “there were no objections” to the footpath being created. Shock, horror – you mean local residents want a well-used passageway paved rather than have to tackle the dirt and the weeds every time we go and get a pint (sorry litre!) of milk from the Co-op.

According to the email sent to Holywells Conservative Councillor Liz Harsant by the Borough Council’s community improvements officer John Clements back in May, as there have been no objections, the Council should now be getting on with planning the paving work.

I have today written to Cllr Liz Harsant and newly elected Holywells Conservative Councillor Pam Stewart asking for an update on when the paving works will begin. Cllr Stewart is aware of the Council’s intransigence on this issue and she asked Labour’s transport chief a question about it at the Full Council meeting in March. As soon as I hear any more news from my councillors, I shall let you know.

Next month, it will be three years since my Committee approved funding for the footpath. During this time, my wife has completed a degree, we got married and also had our first wedding anniversary. I do hope the path is paved before our second wedding anniversary next year!

1 Comment

Sir Humphrey’s contempt for elected representatives: Part V

The saga continues. As I reported back in March, Ipswich Borough Council finally got round to publishing the Order to create a paved footpath for the entire alleyway between Gladstone Road and Foxhall Road. The deadline for objections was 19th April. Or so we thought.

Dirt track between Gladstone Road and Foxhall Road is still not paved

It seems the Sir Humphreys down at Grafton House have found another way of extending the “consultation” period even further. The following email was sent to Holywells Conservative Councillor Liz Harsant yesterday from a mandarin down at the Council:

“The legal process required to enable work to be undertaken to surface the alley way in question is underway.

The legal advertisement of the desire of the Council to create a footpath was undertaken in April.  The consultation period for this has now closed.

The order of confirmation now needs to be circulated to residents who have access rights over the land and copies placed on-site.

There is a further 6 week period where anyone can question the validity of the order and for residents to claim compensation for depreciation or damage for disturbance associated with making the footpath a public right of way.

Once all the above has been completed, without objection, then the Council will be in a place to programme the surfacing of the alley way.” [my emphasis]

Oh terrific. So after three years since I approved the footpath scheme at my Committee, after the scheme was approved at the Executive committee and after all 48 councillors on Ipswich Borough Council approved the scheme, Sir Humphrey is still stopping the first slab from being laid. The only reason the Order was even advertised in March is because a) Cllr Harsant and myself put pressure on the civil servants at the Borough in writing and in person at a public meeting, and b) because newly elected Councillor Pam Stewart (when she was the Conservative candidate for Holywells ward) also asked Labour’s transport chief Phil Smart what the hold-up was at the Full Council meeting in March.

When Douglas Carswell complains the bureaucrats are really running the Coalition Government, they are obviously learning the dark arts of obfuscation and intransigence from the civil servants in Ipswich.

I am trying to find out the exact date when the next round of consultation finishes to help us best guess when the paving work might actually begin…

UPDATE – 25th May: The next round of consultation should end on 29th June according to the new public notice at either end of the dirt track:


Sir Humphrey’s contempt for elected representatives: Part V

The deadline for Ipswich Borough Council to receive objections to the paving over of the dirt track which runs between Gladstone Road and Foxhall Road in Holywells Ward expired yesterday.

Gladstone Road end of current dirt track
I now wait with bated breath for Cllr Phil Smart to confirm if any objections were received to turn an overgrown gravel track into a clean paved footpath for the benefit of residents and visitors to the area alike. 
According to Mark Wedgwood, the officer at the Council in charge of the footpath creation scheme, we are now at the below stage in the process, which was approved by my Committee almost three years ago!

19 April 2012 – (allowed a couple of extra days to allow for late objections)
·         Advertise notice of confirmation
·         Circulate confirmation notice to all interested parties
·         Serve separate notice on adjoining owners referring to compensation
·         Send copy to Ordnance Survey 

On the assumption that we do not receive any objections, the footpath creation order will come into full operation on 19 April. 

Works can then be programmed. 

I hope we can see the first paving slab being laid soon or do we need to trouble Justine Greening??

1 Comment

Sir Humphrey’s contempt for elected representatives: Part IV

As I reported last week, at the full meeting of Ipswich Borough Council, Labour’s transport portfolio holder, Cllr Phil Smart, announced, in response to a question from Conservative Holywells candidate Pam Stewart, the Gladstone Road/Foxhall Road footpath creation scheme order had now been “sealed” and the clock has started ticking for objections to be received at Grafton House by no later than 19th April.

The order has been advertised at either end of the track.

Footpath order advertised at Foxhall Road end of path (the part already paved from when the Co-op was built in 2005)
The Gladstone Road end – a bit like walking back in time!

Let’s hope the “very elongated” process Cllr Smart referred to if an objection is received does not occur. Why anyone would want to object to a dirt track being paved and maintained by the council I do not know.

Watch this space.

Leave a comment

Sir Humphrey’s contempt for elected representatives: Part III

As Paul Norton of the Ipswich Spy parish advised, I attended the South East Area Committee last night.  The acronym for this Ipswich Borough Council committee is SEAC, which could have been devised by Armando Iannucci for the BBC’s The Thick of It. There was also a distinctive Orwellian feel to the meeting with one of the agenda items called ‘Community Intelligence’.

The reason for me attending SEAC was to raise the ongoing saga of the incomplete footpath between Gladstone Road and Foxhall Road, despite being approved by councillors (on my committee) in August 2009!

I won’t rehearse the story of council incompetence again, it can be read here. At SEAC, Cllr Liz Harsant raised the absent footpath under Agenda item ‘6. Responses to Public Questions Received and Open Discussion on Local Issues’ and explained that the footpath creation had been approved three times by councillors but still civil servants at the Borough Council are saying they need also to get Secretary of State approval.

After Cllr Harsant introduced the issue, I was given the opportunity to speak by Cllr Keith Rawlingson, who it has to be said did a very good job at chairing the meeting last night. I added meat to the bone by outlining the precise dates when councillors made a decision on the path and then asked two questions to officers present:

1. Is the Scheme with the IBC Legal department or not?

2. When will the Footpath Creation order be advertised at either end of the current dirt track?

Mr Mark Wedgwood from the Borough Council’s Highways department said the scheme is with the Legal department and that they are drawing up a Footpath Creation order. Mr Wedgwood then said the order will be advertised “shortly”. When pressed by me for a precise time scale he said he would provide it to Cllr Harsant and myself.

Lo and behold, this morning my wife in her capacity as a councillor received an email from Charlotte Meadows of the Council’s legal department stating the footpath creation order will advertised on 20th March, including at each end of the path. I am sure Cllr Harsant’s and my intervention at last night’s SEAC meeting was purely coincidental…

The following new time scale has also been released by Mr Wedgwood:

20 March 2012
·         Seal order
·         Post notice on site
·         Place notice and plan on deposit
·         Circulate notice to all consultees
·         Provide all adjoining owners with copy notice, plan and extract from Highways Act.

17 April – deadline expires.  (extended this by a couple of days to take account of Easter).

On the assumption that we do not receive any objections:

19 April 2012 – (allowed a couple of extra days to allow for late objections)
·         Advertise notice of confirmation
·         Circulate confirmation notice to all interested parties
·         Serve separate notice on adjoining owners referring to compensation
·         Send copy to Ordnance Survey

On the assumption that we do not receive any objections, the footpath creation order will come into full operation on 19 April.

Works can then be programmed. 

It is of some concern that during Mr Wedgwood’s answers to me at the meeting last night he said two things which could still scupper the whole process. Firstly, if there are objections by residents bordering the path, then the scheme will need to passed to the Secretary of State for Transport for a decision and, secondly, Suffolk County Council would still need to adopt the footpath before any works could take place. Why did officers not start the adoption process with the county council when the path was approved on 6th August 2009?

So we are not out of the woods yet. Could we reach the third year anniversary of the first approval by councillors before the first paving slab is laid?


Sir Humphrey’s contempt for elected representatives: Part II

Back in November I wrote about the narrow dirt path, which connects the road I live on with the bus stop on Foxhall Road, a main road in Ipswich. Three years ago, when I was a councillor, I chaired a Committee at Ipswich Borough Council which approved a scheme to pave this heavily-used dirt path, thereby joining up the path with the already paved section which runs by the side of the Co-op convenience store.

Councillors approved path paving ONE year ago

As part of the approval process because the dirt path would need to be “adopted” by the Council – i.e. they will have to maintain it once it is paved over (well, what do I pay my council tax for?) – a meeting of all 48 Borough Councillors had to approve the works, which they duly did in March 2011. This was ONE year ago!

Since then NOTHING has happened. The bureaucrats at the Council have sat on their hands and fobbed off Holywells councillors, like the ever dutiful Cllr Liz Harsant, with excuses such as “we need to get Secretary of State approval”. So some pygmy officer at Grafton House thinks he has to go and ask Her Majesty’s Department of Transport if they can pave over a 20 metre dirt track in an Ipswich suburb. Funnily enough it later transpired Ipswich Borough officials didn’t need to ask Justine Greening to pave a path but instead could get on with implementing the councillors’ decision straight away. But have they got on with it. No, they have twiddled their thumbs for a year and counting!

Last November, the officer gave this update:

I have instructed Legal to make a footpath creation order for the alleyway between Gladstone and Foxhall Road. 

The order will be advertised shortly and if there are no objections we will be able to implement the scheme without the need to gain Secretary of State approval, which was the original thought and has delayed things somewhat.
Funding for the scheme has been approved by the Community Improvements Team and is still ring-fenced to this project.

Today, 7th March 2012, the same officer gave this update:

In order to implement any works here it is necessary to create a public footpath order. The attached file outlines the process and I have instructed Legal to proceed with making the order and consulting with the relevant parties initially. This will then allow a decision on when we can proceed and is subject to objections being received.  [my highlighting]

So either the officer had not asked the Council’s Legal department to make up a footpath creation order or the Legal department did absolutely nothing for four months and it would seem they are still doing nothing. May be the socialists running the Legal department have cottoned on to the fact Holywells is a Conservative ward?

The procedure for a public footpath creation order under Section 26 of the Highways Act 1980 can be read here. The forth bullet point says:

Post copy of notice AND PLAN at each end of proposed path

I can report this notice has not been displayed. As this task is quite high up in the procedure, the lack of a notice doesn’t bode well for the full procedure being implemented any time soon.

No wonder people are fed up with bloated local government.