Extra cash for Cotswolds schools

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has welcomed a scheme promoted by the coalition government that will pump nearly £450,000 of extra funding into schools in the Cotswold district.

North Cerney School is one of those benefiting from the extra cash

The extra cash – amounting to nearly £500 per child under the Pupil Premium initiative – will be used to help children from less privileged backgrounds reach their full educational potential. All children receiving free school meals qualify and the money will be given to their school heads who can decide how to spend it on their behalf.

Primary and secondary schools in Cirencester will see the most benefit with Chesterton Primary receiving a total of more than £18,000, Watermoor Primary £19,000 and Deer Park school £32,000. In the Churn Valley, North Cerney Primary School will benefit by £7320 this year.

The Pupil Premium was a major manifesto commitment by the Liberal Democrats at the 2010 general election, playing a key role in the negotiations that led to the coalition agreement.

Original plans for an extra £430 per pupil have now been boosted by £100m, pushing the amount paid per qualifying child to just under £500.

News of the extra money for the Cotswolds comes after, Liberal Democrat Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather recently announced that the total Pupil Premium funding for next year will rise to £1.25bn, double the amount in 2011-12. Thanks to Liberal Democrats, it will rise again each year until 2014-15 when it will be worth £2.5bn.

Paul commented; “It is shocking that, nationally, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are three times less likely to achieve five good GCSEs than their more well-off classmates. This extra money finally reverses this worrying trend which was allowed to continue under the previous government.”

“We now look forward to working with our schools in the area to help overcome the barriers to achievement that some of the pupils in our community currently face.”

Care village plans rejected

A proposal to build a care village on part of Cirencester Golf Club was rejected yesterday.

The Planning Committee of Cotswold District Council voted unanimously to refuse a planning application which would have seen the building of a care home and village in Bagendon parish, adding 50% to the parish’s population.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson attended the meeting as ward member for the area and afterwards commented, “The Committee was particularly concerned about the building of so many homes in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The visual impact of the development would have been marked and the Committee followed the planning officer’s recommendation to refuse the application.”

“There was clear support from the Committee to see the clubhouse redeveloped but the proposed adjoining care village was seen to contravene the Council’s planning policies and Government guidelines and was therefore a non-starter.”

Public consultation about reducing pollution at Air Balloon roundabout

Cotswold District Council is consulting the public on actions that could be taken to improve the air quality at the Air Balloon Roundabout near Birdlip, and is keen to hear the views of residents, Parish Councils and other organisations about reducing pollution at the site.
Tests have shown that levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) at the busy junction exceed recommended thresholds. This prompted the Council to designate the site an Air Quality Management Area in 2008 with the aim of reducing the effect of this pollutant.
The Council is required to develop and publish an Action Plan setting out the measures that could be taken to reduce levels of NO2 at the roundabout and it is now consulting the public about the Plan over a two-month period.
Although the Council is responsible for the Action Plan, it doesn’t manage the highway network. This means that any reduction in pollution can only be achieved by other agencies including Gloucestershire County Council as the Highways Authority, the Highways Agency and Road Management Services (Gloucestershire) Ltd. Councillor Paul Hodgkinson welcomed the new Action Plan, “Residents living near the junction are concerned about the effects of pollution, and this acknowledges that actions are required to improve the situation.” Anyone interested in finding out more about this consultation can contact the Council’s Environmental Protection Team on 01285 623000 or email aqm@cotswold.gov.uk. More information can be found on the Council’s website at www.cotswold.gov.uk. The consultation closes on Friday 30 September 2011.

New road safety initiative

A new project to help promote safer speeds in our villages kicks off next month.

Many residents in the Churn Valley feel strongly about the speed of traffic along our roads, especially the A435 and A436.

Now, the police have joined forces with the local community to put the spotlight on the areas where speed is still an issue.

A ‘Community Speed Watch’ meeting is to be held on Wednesday 10th August 2011 1900hrs at Elkstone Village Hall. The meeting will agree how to tackle ongoing speeding problems in the area’s ‘hot spots’.

Paul Hodgkinson welcomed the initiative, “Speeding and Road Safety comes up so often when people talk to me – it is a real concern for residents in the Churn Valley, so this new project has to be good news. Everyone is welcome to attend and make this successful.”

Large turnout at public meeting

Residents of the Churn Valley and Stratton turned out en masse yesterday to hear about the work completed on the safercycle and walkers route.

60 people came to the North Cerney Memorial Hall to hear how a group of volunteers has been working since 2008 to provide a safer route for those on foot, bike and horse to go between Cirencester and North Cerney.

Mike Barton (standing) talks to residents at the North Cerney Memorial Hall

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson set up a team of residents, councillors and GCC/CDC officers three years ago to look at the viability of a safe route along the Churn Valley. Now, the route has been fixed as following the River Churn. Residents at the meeting heard how the volunteers have worked with landowners and the Bridleways officer at GCC, Mike Barton, to bring the existing bridlepath up to the correct standard.

Paul took residents through the ‘story’ of how the group had worked voluntarily and with a very small budget to make the project come to life, “It’s a real story of the Big Society in action. What we’ve achieved here is a safer route for people to use, replacing worn out gates, making the surface more even and clearing undergrowth. There’s still more to do, but residents left the meeting enthused about what has been done. I would like to thank the volunteers for working so well together for the good of the community.”

GCC Officer Mike Barton showed residents ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of the route and maps were on hand for people to view. 

Now, the next step is to find a way for the route to be extended to Rendcomb so that villagers there and College students can benefit too.

Leckhampton Hill road safety campaign group appeals for drivers to take greater care

Following a serious accident on 9 March 2011 which sadly resulted in a person being taken to hospital and another accident the same evening, the Salterley Action Force to Enhance our Road (S.A.F.E.R.), set up to campaign for improved safety on the Leckhampton Hill 3/377 road, is appealing to drivers to take extra care and abide by the advisory ‘Max speed 30’ signs on the dangerous bends near Salterley Grange.

After working closely with the Highways Department and prominent coverage by the Gloucestershire Echo, S.A.F.E.R. was delighted that safety improvements were made in November 2010. These included the installation of ‘Max speed 30’ advisory signs at the north and south approaches to the ‘S’ bend and some patching to damaged areas of the road surface. Highways also relocated and improved the ‘junction ahead’ sign to the south of Hartley Lane junction.

Following this work, and despite the poor weather and road conditions over the winter months, the group has been pleased not to hear of any incidents through that period. However, in addition to the 2 accidents on Salterley bends on Wednesday 9th, it is understood there was also an incident on the previous day, 8 March, at another danger spot, the junction with Hartley Lane.

“It is very saddening that having come through some terrible winter weather without incident, we now have three in a row” commented Coberley Parish Councillor, Duncan McGaw, who lives nearby. “We really need drivers who use this road to remember the message and take great care at these potentially hazardous spots, particularly when the surface is wet – the signs are there to help make this road a safer place for them, as well as other road users.”

The S.A.F.E.R. group continues to talk with Highways for a review of the road surface and camber on the bends. “It’s a narrow carriageway and a very sharp bend, – the surface needs to be as skid-resistant as possible and the camber needs adjustment to help drivers keep to their own side better” said Cotswold District Councillor (Churn Valley Ward) Paul Hodgkinson. “We do appreciate the financial pressures on the Council, but we must work together to find a cost-effective solution that will address this problem.”