Thursday, 18 December 2014

Royal seal of approval for filming on the highway

Legal red tape has been officially cut to help movie directors who want to film on Buckinghamshire's roads.

Yesterday (Wednesday December 17) Royal Assent was granted to Buckinghamshire County Council's Filming on Highways Bill to provide extra powers to close roads and footpaths for filming.

Buckinghamshire is home to 22 production companies making features, animation, TV digital production and corporate films. The County Council has always worked to support the film industry, recognising it as an important part of the local economy.

Being close to Pinewood Studios, and within easy reach of London's television and film production companies, Buckinghamshire is a favourite location for the producers and directors.

But until now, traffic regulations have allowed roads to be closed only for 'relevant' sporting, social or entertainment events, and there has long been uncertainty as to whether filming falls under this definition.

The County Council has in the past risked being challenged if roads were closed for filming, but the new Act removes any uncertainty about its legal powers from now onwards.

Anne Davies, Head of Legal for the County Council, said: 'The new powers will be an enormous help in cutting red tape to make Buckinghamshire more attractive to the film industry, which in turn will benefit the local economy.'

The Private Bill was promoted by the County Council through the House of Lords. It received its third and final reading in November this year.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Free driving workshop helps prepare for winter

A free Winter Driving Workshop is being arranged on Wednesday January 21 by Transport for Buckinghamshire to give motorists the knowledge and skills to help drive safely during the winter months.

The workshop, in partnership with STS Tyre Pros Garages, Aylesbury, follows successful winter driving workshops in Chesham and High Wycombe. Motorists who attended said how worthwhile they were.

The workshop, at the STS tyre and exhaust centre in Park Street, Aylesbury, will include:

• A presentation by a former Class 1 police response driver on how to handle vehicles on ice and snow.
• A session with garage technicians who demonstrate to motorists how to conduct basic checks on their vehicles.
Ruth Vigor-Hedderly, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Transport, said: 'Winter driving can bring challenging conditions for all drivers. These workshops support drivers by providing tips, from preparing your vehicle and looking after your car to advice on driving in snow. I would strongly recommend attending this course.'

Signing up to attend is easy: phone 01296 382450, or email or go online.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Cabinet backs massive £25 million programme on roads and more to safeguard vulnerable children in 2015/16.

A major programme of spending £25 million on continuing to restore the county’s roads and increased spending on protecting vulnerable children were amongst the key budget proposals recommended by Cabinet today (December 8). A council tax rise of 1.99% helps provide these much needed investments.

The proposals for 2015/16 have been reached despite an expected £11.2m reduction in government funding and unavoidable growth demands of £20 million, mainly relating to Children’s Services and providing services to elderly adults. There has also been a big increase in demand for school places. With other service pressures this means the Council has to manage with a budget gap of over £31 million just for next year alone.

The large increase in spending on road resurfacing from a previous level of £15 million to a proposed level of £25 million next year has been achieved by bringing forward planned spending from future years.

Outlining the proposals, Martin Tett, Leader of the Council said, "I need to be clear that this is not ‘new money’ but what we have done is listen to feedback from the budget consultation where people said that the state of the county’s roads continues to be one of their top concerns. Therefore we are bringing forward planned capital spending from future years to have a major ‘blitz’ next year. This is sound financial management because it will enable us to contract for work in bulk and also prevent further deterioration of many roads. There will however be some reductions in planned spending in subsequent years to compensate for this.

“Our other key priority is protecting the vulnerable and in particular children's safeguarding and we have invested heavily this year with money from our reserves. From 2015/16 onwards an increase in spending is built into the Children’s Services budget.

“In our very difficult financial situation, the only way we can fund these changes is by reducing budgets in other areas. We've had to make some very difficult decisions with increased charges and cuts both in the ‘back office’ but also in areas that people value but we have no choice.

"We've also reluctantly reached the decision to increase Council tax from a planned 1.5% to 1.99%. This extra increase mirrors the feedback from the budget consultation where seven out of ten residents backed a reasonable increase to protect priority areas. The extra 0.49% increase will generate £1.1 million more to go into Children’s Services. That said, we were equally conscious not to increase Council Tax more than absolutely necessary at a time when many people are still struggling with the everyday cost of living.”

Mr Tett added, "Although we're continuing to make a huge number of internal efficiency measures, inevitably, we've had to propose service reductions to get the books to balance. Examples of these include reduced support for Police Community Safety Officers (PCSOs), less funding for local improvement schemes, reduced support for economic development and reductions in our ‘Supporting People’ service. Not all our proposed reductions have yet been finalised but these demonstrate the reality of how tough things really are."

"The situation would have been much worse had we not already taken difficult decisions like introducing new charges for home to school transport and reducing street lighting. We've also significantly reduced our staff and reformed terms and conditions.”

The belt is set to tighten still further for all councils in the following two years as policies to tackle the national deficit look like continuing whichever party is elected to Government next May. However, County Councils right across the country face unique cost pressures given their responsibility for education, social services and child protection, all of which are seeing a rapid increase in demand at a time when the level of Government Grant is reducing sharply. In Buckinghamshire, there is an urgent need for more school places to cope with a rapidly rising young population. At the other end of the spectrum, an ageing population combined with planned changes particularly as a result of the Care Act will increase demands on council services.

The draft budget will now go for further consideration by the business community and other partner agencies. Over December into early January, it will also be subject to scrutiny by a the County Council’s independent Finance, Performance and Resources Select Committee before Cabinet recommends the final budget to full County Council on 12 February 2015.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Pothole patching programme begins

Transport for Buckinghamshire's road patching programme gets underway on 8 December.

In March 2014, the Government announced the creation of a £168 million pothole fund available to highway authorities in England to help repair damage to local roads. Buckinghamshire County Council submitted a bid, and was awarded £1.4 million to repair known pothole sites. Over 230 sites were assessed and a list of 132 sites drawn up for treatment. Sites have been chosen using these criteria:
• Sites that the severe weather recovery scheme fund didn’t cover
• Known sites that suffer with a number of potholes
• Local Area Technicians’ selection based on their knowledge of the local area.
Works will be carried out by TfB's contractors and the majority will require road closures. Works will run from December until March and will consist of patching works from 1 to 140 square metres, depending on the site requirements.

Ruth Vigor-Hedderly, Cabinet Member for Transport said, "We were very grateful to receive some of the Government's pothole fund, and we have been careful deciding where to spend the money. This will not solve all our problems - however, we are working hard through all our road treatment programmes to improve the overall condition of the roads. In targeting these locations, we will be able to make a real impact on local roads by making permanent repairs to 132 sites."

The first week's work will target the following locations:

Turville Valley Road, Turville: Monday 8 December – Wednesday 10 December
Daytime patching works carried out with a road closure

Swallow Street, Iver: Thursday 11 December – Friday 12 December
Daytime patching works carried out with a road closure

Lower Road, Gerrards Cross: Wednesday 10 December
Daytime patching works carried out with a road closure

Mill Lane, Gerrards Cross: Thursday 11 December – Friday 12 December
Daytime patching works carried out with a road closure

Howard Avenue Aylesbury: Monday 8 December
Daytime patching works carried out with a road closure

The Green & Brook Street, Edlesborough: Tuesday 9 December
Daytime patching works carried out with a road closure

Chiltern Road, Ballinger: Wednesday 10 December
Daytime patching works

Horton Road, Ivinghoe: Thursday 11 December – Friday 12 December
Daytime patching works using an offpeak road closure

Weekly updates will be posted on the website, including site lists and details of road closures and traffic management measures:

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Stocklake link consultation launched

A public consultation on the proposed design for Stocklake Link Road urban section improvement scheme is launched by Buckinghamshire County Council today (Monday December 1) as part of the Aylesbury East growth plan.

The road improvement scheme is one of a number of major schemes funded by a £44 million grant through the Government’s Local Growth Deal, which is being managed by Buckinghamshire County Council and Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (BTVLEP).

The road improvements will provide a number of benefits, moving the new road further away from the fronts of houses, new footpaths, new cycle path, new parking, as well as more space for through traffic. The aim is also to improve the look and feel of the area.

A public exhibition at Stocklake Park School on Thursday 4 December will be open from 4.30pm and 8.30pm. People will be able to see the proposed designs, talk to the Project Team, and provide feedback on the proposals.

Ruth Vigor-Hedderly, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: 'The proposed change to Stocklake is the first of several major highway improvements that will improve transport links into Aylesbury and stimulate growth and development to benefit the area.'

Ruth urged people who might be affected by the proposals to attend the exhibition on December 4 and give their feedback. All comments will be considered when reviewing the design, she said.

People can feed back on questionnaires available at the exhibition, or online at until Monday 12 January 2015.

Further information on the Aylesbury East growth plans can be found at

Search is on for the lollipop patrollers

Wanted: lollipop patrollers!

School crossing patrol 'sheriff' Mark Shaw has been eyeing the danger spots on roads heading into town. And he needs nine lollipop ladies or men to give Buckinghamshire's children a safe crossing.

Once he finds them, he's sure they'll stick around - for a long time!

Nearly a third of Buckinghamshire's school crossing patrollers, who ensure a safe journey daily for thousands of children and parents going to and from school, have served for more than 10 years.

Seven have been patrolling for more than 20 years and one, Christine Walker, who sees children across the road at West Wycombe, will have clocked up 37 years in February.

Long-serving patroller great-grandmother Irene Warne, who has notched up more than 25 years, has seen four generations of her family across the road, and now crosses her great-grandson Caleb.

Irene, guarding the Elmhurst, Aylesbury, crossing says she can't think of a job she'd rather be doing.

‘I know I’m out in all weathers, but I still love the job and I love seeing the children every day,' said Irene. 'To me it’s important that they see a smiley face on their way to school.’

And at Beaconsfield, one crossing patrol is so popular it has three lollipop ladies. Jenny Flynn, Debbie Marsden and Belinda Avery take shifts looking after the High March School crossing.

Debbie said the trio love the daily smiles, 'thank-yous' and waves from the children and local people. 'This is more than enough reward for the job,' she said. 'But hopefully we are making a difference as well - helping to make them safer and also happier to walk to school.'

Mark, Buckinghamshire County Council Deputy Cabinet Member for Transport, is in awe of patrollers' devotion to duty. 'They all play a fantastic part in our children's safety. But for everyone, much as they love the job, there comes a time when they want to stand down,' he said.

'And I'm looking to round up nine new patrollers to keep our children safe crossing our busy roads. They're wanted . . . but for no longer than an hour or so a day.'

'Sheriff' Mark will be visiting school crossing patrols in Buckingham, Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Beaconsfield to support a recruitment campaign that launches on Monday (December 1).

And Mark's 'sheriff' image will be appearing on posters and leaflets in schools, libraries, surgeries, and community notice boards.