John Bone: What a powerful transformation

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Some of us cannot get used to the way the once-sluggish, unimaginative, argumentative and consultant-ridden Forest Heath District Council has transformed itself into the West Suffolk powerhouse.

Literally a powerhouse because they have gritted their teeth, girded their loins, bitten the bullet and actually bought a solar farm for a cool £14 million. The concept is not new. Local councils have been in the utilities industries since Victorian times. Think water. Think gas. But this step is not only bold, imaginative and sensible but, being piously green, is politically correct, too. How virtuous can you get?

n Now that he’s the Minister for Digital, our MP must brace himself for lots of crude jokes telling him to get his finger out. He must sense the simmering resentment in many parts of Suffolk which have entrepreneurial heads of steam crippled by dozy broadband. He must get his fellow ministers to understand the countryside is not a sleepy place where we sip cider between harvests. Vast international industries can be conducted from our pretty thatched cottages and bring renewed prosperity to struggling villages if only he’ll get us the gear to do it. So, Matthew, may I be the umpteenth rude person to tell you to get your digit out.

n What a way to honour those who died so we could live in peace. Rancour, recriminations, an accusation of “utter stupidity”, muddy muddles over money and one organisation sweeping off in a huff. Thus the refurbishment of Newmarket’s memorial garden proceeds. For shame! Could everyone involved please pause for a moment and reflect on the fundamental purpose of the enterprise? A little grace, patience and gentle charity would not come amiss.

n Drinking and talking are only two of the very many uses a village pub can be put to. I have known them be used as doctors’ surgeries, polling stations and even as a place of worship. So often such pubs these days become smart restaurants and their social bar function fades away. This is not always the landlord’s fault. Locals all too often forget the old adage “Use it or lose it.” So Woodditton and all in reach of the famed Three Blackbirds pub should be pleased the new owners vow they will retain and encourage its role as a “community hub.” Of course, to be a really authentic, old-fashioned community hub it will need at least once grumpy old man sitting in “his” corner chair grumbling that the beer’s cloudy and everything is worse than when he was a boy. I am prepared to volunteer for the job if I get free salt ’n’ vinegar crisps and casting vote on the recruitment of barmaids.

n With the force so thin on the ground, it is commendable the Suffolk Police have found a way to run a campaign against speeding this week. Offenders will get not only a fine or a ticking off but also a stark description of how speed kills and injures. It is so easy to forget we are pilots of a killer machine when we are cocooned in our cars. But I’m not sure a lecture is the best cure. It would be unsightly and untidy, but how about leaving blood-stained wrecks on the roadside a little longer. They certainly make me slow down.

n The “catch ’em young and keep ’em for life” strategy has worked well for organisations ranging from churches to banks, so there’s no reason it won’t do the same for racing. The canny marketing minds at the Jockey Club are offering free entry to Cambridge students and their own cut-price bar on October 7 and 8. Presumably the hope is that, once ensnared, graduates on leaving Cambridge and scattering around the world will take the racing habit with them all their days. Good thinking. And what a boon for lazy students who, when interrogated by authority about how they spend their time, will be able honestly to say “on the course.”

n At an unsettled and uncertain time in commerce and industry, Newmarket Business Park is to get a new 15,000-sq- ft unit. This is a bold but well-founded gesture of confidence in the town’s future. An employer’s job is to make money but it would be great if the new tenant offers opportunities for our young people some of whom are having a tough time finding scope for their talents without leaving town.

n It took at least 30 years to get the A11 dualled to Thetford and a little longer to get the A14 to relieve Newmarket High Street from hopeless congestion. But I bet it won’t take that long to get the new £10 million Hill Gallop built. But, then, you see the A14 and the A11 are for mere human beings whereas the gallop is for horses.

n The rare storks now nesting at Lakenheath Fen are described as “shy and secretive” birds. So why have they made their home right next to the Norwich-Ely rail line? Seems to me they are as secretive as those showbiz people who pester the press with pleas to be ignored.