A394 near Newham Farm, Helston is to be closed for one night

In the last few months there has been concerns expressed about the length of time it has taken and the traffic congestion due to the road repairs on the A394 near Newham Farm, Helston. In a previous blog post I explained the sheer scale of the works required to repair this carriageway.

With the summer holiday season approaching and a massive increase of traffic on the roads Cornwall Council, Cormac and the local Cornwall councillors want to avoid large-scale congestion due to only one lane open on the A394. To avoid this, work will be undertaken to open both lanes on the 5/6th July.

The work require will result in this road being closed for a short period between 5th July at 7pm to 6th July 7am hours. This has to be done to allow certain safety features to be installed to allow both lanes to be open.

So from 7am on the 6th July, both lanes of the A394, near Newham Farm will be open.

Issuing Fixed Penalty Notices for unauthorised absence in Cornwall’s Schools.

Since the Government change the legislation surrounding unauthorised absence during term time there has been a lot of stories in the media from local and national radio, to printed media on the subject of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN). Therefore, I felt it was important to explain fact from fiction. Without making this blog post long, and repeating something please read ‘Unauthorised absence during the school term’ to refresh yourselves.

In another blog post on ‘The number of fines from unauthorised absence in Cornwall’s schools’ I give details on the actual number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued by Cornwall Council on behalf of  the Headteacher. To clarify, the decision on whether to grant leave of absence in term-time is always made by the Headteacher of each school. Head Teachers only grant leave of absence in term time if the reason is exceptional, with the individual Headteacher responsible for deciding what is considered to be exceptional.

If a pupil is absent during term-time without this being granted by the Head Teacher, then the school can request the Local Authority to consider issuing a Penalty Notice. Cornwall has a protocol for the issuing of Penalty Notices, agreed with schools, and is only issued under specific circumstances.

However, long-term truancy is a different matter and will not be covered via the FPN system. In cases like this, Education Welfare Officers  will get involved by work closely with schools, parents and pupils to try to sort out attendance issues. This may involve arranging home and school visits to discuss the situation. They will try to find out the reasons why the child is not attending school and take steps to try to get the child back into school.  This includes offering support or sign-posting to other agencies. Failing this, the Council will have to address truancy through the court system. This though is the last resort when all other options have been exhausted.

Has the introduction of the legislation worked? The answer to that depends on how it has affected you. For those in the tourism industry would say this change has had a devastating impact on their trade. The flip side of the coin is teachers say attendance has got better. As for parents, they may say holidays are unaffordable due to the massive hikes in prices during the school holidays.

There has been suggestions school holidays could be staggered. This sounds easy on paper, but trying to do this on a national scale is an almost impossible job, especially as academy schools have the right to set their own term and holiday periods. This makes it very difficult for Local Authorities to set fixed term times because schools can ignore it and so their own thing. For Blogs on this subject click School Term Times.

For those interested, more details on the policy can be found HERE

 

 

Launch of a children’s Oral Health Programme which will start to tackle tooth decay in Cornwall

Just over a year ago, I witnessed first-hand a number of dental procedures being carried out during a visit to PCH Dental and RCHT which could have been prevented by improved oral health (blog on the visit HERE).

When you see children as young a seven having teeth pulled out because of decay, it certainly highlights a problem that I felt as the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, something really had to change to address dental hygiene in Cornwall

The shocking statistic is an estimated 99% of cases of teeth extraction is due to poor diet and dental hygiene and considered preventable. It gets worse, with around 25% of five-year olds in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are found to have tooth decay. This is 99% preventable.

In 2011/2012, 830 young people under the age of 18 years in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly had teeth extracted under general anaesthetic – with an average of three teeth per child.

From my visit, I arranged a meeting with various Health and Public Health partners to see how we could address the problem. The short version of the process is organisations came together, contributed with funding and started a pilot programme to start to address this issue.

The pilot programme took place over a three-month period from April 2015 and was run at St Meriadocs Infant School. The pilot proved to be a great success. Dental Therapists from PCH Dental worked with the school to give oral health education to around 100 children aged three to five years including introducing a supervised ‘tooth-brushing club’ for nursery children and applying fluoride varnish to the teeth of children in the reception classes.

With the success of the pilot, I am very pleased to say the Council has commissioned PCH Dental to deliver this programme. This next phase will target areas where children are at higher risk of poor oral health. One of the aims of this programme is to reduce this inequality.

The official launch of the Oral Health Programme took place at St Meriadocs Infant school. Children from this school were asked to come up with a logo for the programme, with the winner announced at the event.

The many entries from the children

The many entries from the children

It was great to see so many fantasitc entries, and it was very hard to pick a winner. However, a winner was duly picked and there was prizes for second and third places too. In fact, all the children who entered in the competition got a goodie bag (healthy one).

The top three entries. 1st, 2nd, 3rd left to right

The top three entries. 1st, 2nd, 3rd left to right

The Oral Health Programme will deliver tooth brushing clubs in 27 nurseries; oral health education programmes and tooth brushing demonstrations in 20 children’s centres and fluoride varnishing programme in 20 schools.

Highlighting the importance of keeping teeth and gums healthy at an early age will not only help reduce the need for teeth extraction as a result of decay in children, but also into adulthood.

The first two phases of this programme to raise awareness of the importance of good dental care from an early age have been very successful and I look forward to working in partnership with PCH Dental and Public Health to deliver this next phase. From this phase, I want the programme to be available county-wide in the near-future.

Thanks again to all who took the time to listen to me and help solve this issue. I could not have done this without you.

 

Vodaphone set to upgrade its telecommunication mast at Porthleven

For residents of Porthleven who are on the Vodaphone mobile network, they have been raising the issue of network problems, with the loss or no signal. This has been frustrating for many people.

Mobiles can only work with a network of base stations in place where people want to use their mobile phones or other wireless devices. Without base stations, the mobile phones and other devices we rely on simply won’t work.

The agents for the company have contacted me as part of the planning process to inform me of the upgrading of the mast, which is at Treza Farm, Porthleven. In my reply, I have supported the upgrade. However, the consultation is more of informing you of the work, as infrastructure upgrades like this come under permitted developement.

The technical network requirement is to provide 3G / 4G coverage for this locality and area. This will result in the removal of the existing 17m Telefonica only mast housing 1 antenna and 1x 0.6m dish and its replacement with a 17.5m mast housing 6 antennas, 1 x 0.3m and 1 x 0.6m dish for the shared use of Telefonica and Vodafone.

With this upgrade, I am hopeful the reliability of the network will improve. Though, as yet, I do not have a start date for the work.

 

 

The children of Porthleven School write an open letter about clearing up dog poo

There is a small working group made up from representatives from the town council and the community who are looking at how to tackle the issue of people not picking up their dog’s poo. It is totally unacceptable our play areas and pavements are blighted by dog poo; caused by owners failing to pick it up.

The working group has asked the children of Porthleven School to help in this campaign. The children of the school, supported by the teaching staff, have written an open letter that explains how they see this issue.

The letter is as follows:

“Dear Porthleven,

The children of Porthleven School are writing this open letter as we would like to ask people in the village to make sure they clean up after their dogs. It is something that the children think is a growing problem, where they have noticed it all around our village. During the last week the School Council, which is run by pupils, have been holding meetings with the children in each class, along with the teachers, to talk about the issue about the dog mess in Porthleven. When we talked to the children here are some of their comments,

“There is lots of poo around the park, especially around the goal and it has stopped my mum letting me play there.”

“My mummy found 20 large pieces of dog poo in one field and was really cross. She picked up every single piece of poop.”

“I am really scared for my dog because the rain makes it go in the stream and all the germs might make her very ill when she drinks from it.”

“The posters don’t work. I watched somebody scoop up the mess and put the bag in a hedge.”

“There are not enough bins and they are never cleaned.”

“There are more flies with the mess and they go all over you.”

“My dog was really poorly from eating it and got a parasite in its tummy.”

“I went for a walk and there was poo on the beach, in the lane and by the swings – it was everywhere!”

This is just a few of the comments we have collected.

The pupils are really concerned that if they get it on their shoes, they could spread into school on the floor where they might sit.

We have been investigating and know that dog poo has 23 million bacteria on just one gram. This makes it stink and is unpleasant, but most importantly, it can make us really poorly. It also has toxins in that could make us blind. It is bad for our environment and gets into the water and se

We want to change this by making people more aware of the issues. If there are more bins, people might use them? Why do people just leave it on the floor? We have seen signs saying about fines for people who don’t clear up the mess but are they enforced?

Thank you for the time in reading our concerns and we really would like you to address this problem as soon as possible.

Yours Sincerely

Porthleven School Council”

This letter say’s it all really. Well done to all the children who gave their views. Thanks should also go to the staff at the school who are supporting the children to get this message across.

Please pick up your dog’s poo. And when you do pick it up, do not just leave the bag, or throw it somewhere, dispose of it correctly. It is not only the red dog bins that can take dog poo, all bins in Porthleven can be used to deposit dog poo.

The details behind bringing mainline gas to Porthleven

The role of a Councillor is to help residents with not only any problems they have, but also to help them to achieve something they feel is important. This is the case with Penny, who along with others, feels Porthleven should have access to mainline gas. Since Penny came to me, I have been looking into how to solve this issue.

It is one of histories oversights that Porthleven has no gas, I really do not understand why gas was never installed in Porthleven. I know Porthleven was a lot smaller 80/100 odd years ago, but that still does not make it right.

Looking at the wider picture, Porthleven is not alone in its lack of connection to mainline gas as:

  • 51.6% of households in Cornwall are without mainline gas (48.4% with)*;
  • Without mainline gas in the South West region 31.1; England 21.2%.

More startling look at the number of households with no central heating*:

  • Households with no central heating in Cornwall – 7.2%;
  • Households in the Isles of Scilly with no central heating – 26.3%;
  • Households in the South West region with no central heating – 3.6%;
  • Households in England with no central heating – 2.7%;
  • Porthleven households with no central heating 10% (takes into account Sithney – LSOA) Porthleven West – 66 households (12%); Porthleven North and Sithney 61 households (11%) and Porthleven East 44 households (7%).

The good news is Wales and West – who are responsible for putting in gas infrastructure in Cornwall – would be happy to put mainline gas into Porthleven. This is great, at least that is a start. However, the no-so good news is the cost of putting in mainline gas and its associated costs.

This cost could be over £2.5m to bring mainline gas to Porthleven. A huge amount in anyone’s book. I asked Wales and West – who have been very helpful – could this be part of their capital infrastructure plans. The answer was simple – no. Though the company did explain the process and what would be needed for such a large project to move forward. Before this idea gets to the concept stage, Wales and West would need:

  • To take this forward Wales and West (WW) require 524 homes to sign up and willing to pay the service and connection charge. Those signing-up would be written to confirming they are willing to sign-up and then asked to pay (NB – this money would be refunded if the projects fails to go ahead);
  • This connection and service charge (subject to final estimate) totals £2910 – Service is £1,205/connection £1,705;
  • Connection and service charge would be applicable until the penetration; reached 1,310 homes. ie. the number of dwelling connected;
  • Post 1310, the charge would be £1,705;
  • Nearest mainline gas connection is 16,000m away. Basically near the boating lake. The pipeline would then have to be installed along Porthleven Road.
  • Possible grant funding for those on certain benefits. Even with a grant the cost will still be £514 +Vat (under 10m) but if there are large gardens it will about to £1,200 + VAT (based on a single connection)
  • Grant possible through Integrated Energy Services. Details to be confirmed
  • Once 524 have signed up, and who will be required to pay up front, the  detailed costing will be worked up including timeframes
  • Project timeline for implementation could be at least 2 years, installation to properties could take longer.

Porthleven has currently 1850 dwellings. This is made up of:

  • Coastline Housing – 170;
  • DCH Housing – 90;
  • Second Home/Holiday Lets** – at least 232 (blogs on second homes HERE);
  • Private ownership/rent – 1,358

If there was the required 524 households willing to sign up and part with the cash (if scheme does not go forward this money is reimbursed) it would need to co-operation of the housing associations, and a number of second homes/holiday lets.

In moving this project forward, I have been speaking to both Coastline and DCH. Both have been positive about the plan. Coastline has said:

“Coastline Housing is supportive to the principle of bringing mainline gas to Porthleven.  As stated in the Corporate Plan 2014-17 Coastline Housing recognises the substantial increases in heating and is undertaking an ambitious plan to significantly reduce costs for customers.  We are primarily focussed on improved insulation and an increased SAP rating but the additional affordability challenges presented in “off gas” areas is well understood so we have been working with Cornwall Council,  Glow Cornwall and utility companies to identify opportunities to extend the existing gas main network.”

 

DCH have yet to give a firm response because they have taken my request to their various boards to discuss this. However, in the conversation I have had, they seem positive about the project.

Even if we got to the stage of the required numbers to sign up, this does not take into consideration of upgrading a households heating system. This could cost between £5,000 and £8,000***.

This means a household could be expected to pay as much as £10,000 to have mainline gas.

Of course when looking into the feasibility of this project, I had a look at funding. Cornwall Council have been very helpful in looking around to see if there is a pot of funding that could be used for this project. This included both national and European funding. Sadly as yet, there is nothing available.

This brings me onto two other issues. The first one is on the current thinking about energy funding. From the looks of things, both the funding for European and Government is heading towards renewable, including ground-source heating and solar. This is where the funding pots are, not sadly in mainline gas.

The second issue is on the confusing world of State Aid. This is where there are rules on what can or cannot be funded. I have a guidance book that is half and inch thick on State Aid, and believe me, it is not an easy read. In the simplest terms, it is very hard to give funding to privately owned properties. So for both gas and renewables it could be hard to justify funding to non-housing association dwellings.

In gathering support for the project, I asked for this idea to go on to Porthleven Town Council agenda, allowing this to be discussed at their monthly meeting. This meeting has taken place, and the good news is the town council is supportive of the aims of bringing mainline gas to Porthleven. However, it was not just gas they supported, but they wanted to look at all forms of alternative energy, including renewables. This is a sensible way forward, as by looking at other forms of energy, there might be the funding required for something that has so far eluded me.

I am sorry this blog post is so long, I am trying to explain how a simple and great idea is not that easy to carry out.

 

*ONS Census 20th Jan 2013; ** As of 29/11/12 second homes and 27/11/12 for holiday lets when I last did the research. *** estimate cost from Coastline.

Meeting Cormac about the A 394 roadworks near Newham Farm, Helston

On Wednesday, I along with my fellow Cornwall Councillors for Helston, Judith Haycock and Phil Martin, and the Cornwall Councillor for Breage, John Keeling met with senior officers from Cormac to discuss the repair work along the road near Newham Farm.

From the pictures below you can see the scale of the work required to repair this stretch of road. It is hard to understand the scale from the roadside, but being on site, you really get a perspective of how massive the project is.

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Looking right to left, the scale of the work

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Looking left to right, the other part of the scheme

 

The cost of the repair will be in the region of £450,000 and includes the use of over 4,000 tonnes of stone (Six C stone for those technical) that will form a 1 in 2 bank supporting the road and wall.

All the Councillors raised the issue of the impact this repair is having on the traffic and how this needs to be sorted before the main holiday season when this area sees a massive increase of traffic.

The senior officers from Cormac fully understood this, and assured the Councillors they are going as quickly as they can. They also have come up to with a solution that will remove the traffic lights.

The plan is – subject to final approval – to close this road (A 394) on the night of Sunday 6th July to allow essential work to be carried out including installing barriers. Once this is completed, the traffic lights will be removed resulting in both carriageways being able to be used, abet with a reduced speed limit to 30 mph.

Of course the area will be monitored to make sure the carriageway is still safe and there is no additional damage from this plan. The reason this can be done is the strengthening work in the most critical areas would have been completed.

I have also asked during the A394’s closure for parking on Fore Street in Porthleven to be temporary suspended due to the increased traffic.

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temporay supports, buffering up the wall.

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Councillors and senior Cormac officers meeting on site

I am grateful to Cormac for meeting us on the site, this has allowed us to understand the scale of the work.

Bookstart Week and hanging with my mate, Bookstart Bear

National Bookstart Week runs from 8th till the 14th June and is an annual celebration of Book Trust’s flagship reading programme, Bookstart. It aims to reinforce to families the importance of getting in to the habit of reading every day – even if it’s just for ten minutes!

This year’s theme, Jungle Adventures, is based on Giles Andreae’s beloved picture book Rumble in the Jungle, which will be given away to more than 450,000 families in the UK.

The Bookstart programme is run by Booktrust, an independent national charity that encourages people of all ages and cultures to engage with books. This is done with support provided though a unique public/private partnership, that includes funding from the DfE, generous publisher support and the local authority to provide free Bookstart packs to babies and toddlers. This is where Cornwall Council comes in supporting this fantastic programme.

During the last ten years, Cornwall has delivered 100,000 Bookstart packs making the county in the top 5% nationally. This equates to 350,000 free books worth around £1.4m given to children to help inspire a love of reading. It doesn’t stop there either, as well as providing free books, Bookstart facilitates a range of fun activities through Bookstart Bear Club. This club is run in various community spaces with staff offering fun interactive activities including stories and rhymes.

During Bookstart week, Bookstart Bear has visited Saltash Library and Lostwithiel Library. Bookstart will also be visiting Redruth Library on Friday 12th June from 11am and Helston Library on Saturday 13th June from 11am -12 noon.

I had the pleasure of visiting my old friend, Bookstart at one of the events. It was clear to see from both parents and the children gathered how much they appreciate the service, and why the financial support from the children’s directorate is worth every penny

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Seeing my old friend again

Saltash Bookstart (2)

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Work has started on Porthleven CIC’s car park

This week work finally started on the formation of the new car park for Porthleven. This car park will be big enough for at least 71 cars. The CIC were very pleased to award the contract for the work to Michell’s of Porthleven who along with two other companies bid for the work.

Porthleven due to its popularity has seen a large increase of visitors over the years. Due to the historic design of Porthleven parking is an issue. The only official car park is Cornwall Council car park Kittos Field. This however, gets full quickly, especially in peak periods. This results in people leaving Porthleven because they cannot park, or finding alternative parking, around the harbour or on streets. The directors at the CIC are hoping this new car park will help alleviate this issue.

The car park has been achieved by the award of £99,950 from the Coastal Community Fund. The car park project is not the only project the CIC are carrying out with this money. The other projects are: Community Marquee Hire, town trail, website and up-lighting the Bickford-Smith Institute. The latter project having been completed.

To attract people to use the car park, the directors of the CIC have set a competitive charging price. This will be £1.40 for up to 2 hours parking, and £3.50 all day.

The profits from the car park will then be used for community projects who can apply for money from the profits. The marquee hire business also runs on the same principle. This will give Porthleven a sustainable form of income for community based projects.

For more details about Porthleven CIC and the projects ‘like our Facebook page and/or follow us on Twitter via @PorthlevenCIC

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Let’s talk about sex…… education

Let’s talk about sex… education. Catchy title, but in reality we talk about this subject as RSE, which is relationships and sex education. The emphasis on relations is an important factor.

Young people, parents and carers in Cornwall are being asked for their views on sex education as part of a new partnership aimed at promoting healthy relationships and sexual health.

Building on the success of the latest decline in teenage pregnancy rates by more than a half, Cornwall Council’s Public Health and Health Promotion Service teams have joined forces with Brook and the RCHT Sexual Health Hub to launch TALK RSH (relationships and sexual health).

To help the group develop its social media work and resources available, people are being asked to take part in one of two online surveys – one aimed at young people, the other at parents and carers.

The surveys are available at www.cornwall.gov.uk/TALKRSH. Please share and complete the survey by the 16th July.

The surveys will be used to develop TALK RSH social media work with young people and resources and information for parents and carers later this year.

Timely and accessible information on relationships and sexual health is vital in improving the wellbeing and sexual health of people in Cornwall, explained Louise Sweeney from Cornwall Council Public Health.

Over the last few years there has been a tremendous amount of work being done in Cornwall to help improve sexual health. As a result we In Cornwall have seen our rates of teenage pregnancy decline, which is really good news. But we know that there is more to do and the TALK RSH group, made up of different agencies and organisations has put a plan in place to help ensure we can effectively give the people of Cornwall the messages around relationships and sexual health.”

As a large rural county it is vital people get the information they need to make informed, healthy choices around their sexual health and can access services when they need them. We are keen to hear from young people and their parents and carers to ensure we support them in the best way possible.”

In one if its first pieces of work, TALK RSH  – which I am a member of – wants to hear from young people and parents and carers.

The facts are young people aged 16-24 are most affected by poor sexual health and sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia. Those involved with the programme want to be able to engage with young people through social media to ensure they receive up-to–date, consistent information about relationships and sex education, in addition to what they learn at school.

Young people in Cornwall also told us they wanted to be able to speak to their parents and carers about relationships and sex, but national research tells us that parents and carers can sometimes find these conversations difficult, especially if their own sex education was patchy

We are also keen that they know where they can access trusted information online when they need it. To do this we are asking young people to complete a survey on how they would like to engage with us on social media, which we will be available online and through schools and young people’s projects.”

It is important to find out how parents and carers in Cornwall feel about this and to make sure they know where they can get information and support locally. We’ll be sending out a parents and carers survey alongside the young people’s survey and would love to hear back from as many parents and carers as possible.

This is an important topic that affects our young people, I know that relationships and sex education helps to reduce teenage pregnancy, and gives young people the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe, but there is still a lot of misinformation, myth and fear out there on these topics.

We know we can make a difference on this, but it’s vital we hear from you to help us inform TALK’s work, so please get involved and take part in the surveys.

For me it is great to work alongside individuals who care about this subject, and who want both parents, carers and young people to have the correct and up to date information available.

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