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Archived News - South Beds District Council

Stable conversion goes to appeal

This article was published in November 2007. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

A new move is being made to try to win the planning go-ahead to convert stables in Eaton Bray.

In August, South Beds District Council rejected the idea of converting the stables into a residential dwelling.

Now an appeal has been lodged to try to overturn that decision on the application for the Dyers Road stables.

The appeal will be decided through written representations and a site visit from a planning inspector. Anyone who would like to see the grounds of appeal can do so at the district council offices, in High Street North, during normal working hours.

Comments can be made in writing. Three copies of any written representations should be sent to: The Planning Inspectorate, 3/16 Eagle Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN.

Comments should include the reference APP/N0220/A/07/2056120 and the name of the person who has lodged the appeal, Mrs M. Lay.

Written representations must be received by December 11.

They can only be considered if copies are also forwarded to the person appealing, before the above date.

Source: Dunstable Gazette, 14 November 2007

Tax tot-up tops average £1,500

This article was published in March 2007. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

The final council tax tot-up has taken place, so South Beds householders can now check out how big their bill will be for 2007/08.

Council tax bills are made up of shares for various different authorities, who provide all sorts of services for people in South Beds.

The last piece of the council tax jigsaw for the coming year has just been clicked into place, at South Beds District Council's budget-setting meeting.

Councillors voted through the Tory budget, which means that the district council's share of the council tax will go up by 2.99 per cent this year.

Executive committee councillor Philip Penman, who has special responsibility for resource management, said: "We are increasing the district council tax by 2.99 per cent - less than the rate of inflation, and so this is a reduction in real terms in the amount our residents will pay to us in the coming year.

"I have budgeted for the same low increase for the next four years, too. By running South Bedfordshire District Council efficiently, and by listening to what out residents want, I am delighted that we can provide a wide and growing range of high quality services, while reducing the burden of council tax."

Eaton Bray households Council Tax Bill 2007-08

  • Band A: £983.37
  • Band B: £1,147.26
  • Band C: £1,311.16
  • Band D: £1,475.05
  • Band E: £1,802.84
  • Band F: £2,130.63
  • Band G: £2,458.42
  • Band H: £2,950.10

Source: Dunstable Gazette, 7 March 2007

Alarm bells fines put on hold again

This article was published in February 2007. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

It's the second time that the alarm notification area policy - which gives the council the right to fine alarm owners if they don't hand over details about their keyholders - has been put back.

A South Beds District Council spokeswoman announced that, although the policy is being viewed as a success, at council HQ more time is needed to bring it in.

Problems making householders aware of the policy and difficulties alarm holders have had finding someone to act as a keyholder have been cited as reasons for the delay.

The burglar alarm policy has been the cause of widespread discontent since the Gazette first reported that it was being introduced last year. Critics have panned the new measure, accusing the council of invading their privacy and raising concerns that the information could become a valuable resource for criminals.

Eaton Bray campaigner Alan Woolridge mounted a petition in December and publicly called on householders to refuse to hand over the information.

But the district council confirmed that, despite these reservations, 3,500 people living in South Beds have passed on contact details for the people they trust with their keys.

"We're thrilled with the response," said the council spokeswoman.

The district council's envirocrime unit claims that having keyholder details on record will make it easier to silence ringing alarms quickly and cut down on the misery and noise pollution they can cause.

When the alarm notification area was first announced, people in South Beds were told that after Christmas Eve they could face a fixed fine of £80, and failure to pay within 14 days would lead to a hefty £1,000 penalty.

This was later put back until February, and now enforcement of the fines has been postponed again.

Source: Dave Burke, Dunstable Gazette, 28 February 2007

Alarm bells fear allayed

This article was published in January 2007. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

Since the Gazette reported that the scheme - which means burglar alarm owners have to hand over contact details for their keyholders or face a fine - was being introduced, readers have voiced concerns about the impact that disclosing the information will have on their cover.

The measure was introduced to cut down on endlessly ringing alarms and ensure that if a home alarm goes off it can be shut down quickly. South Beds District Council's Envirocrime Unit, which is overseeing the policy, has claimed a victory this week after it used keyholder contact details to quickly silence an alarm in Kensworth.

But Gazette reader Malcolm Dodd said: "Before submitting confidential details regarding the security of one's home to a third party, householders should consult their insurance company.

"They may have a very different view of the information requested becoming available to a third party, let alone recorded on a central database.

"Are South Beds District Council, with their official responsibility for this new regulation, prepared to accept liability resulting from possible non-compliance of the terms of the householder's insurance policy?"

The council has been quick to say that Mr Dodd's concerns are unfounded.

A spokeswoman for South Beds District Council said: "We did check with insurance companies before we introduced the scheme and it won't affect home insurance cover."

And one of the country's largest insurers has backed them.

A spokeswoman for Norwich Union said the company had no concerns about disclosing information to the council, and said the only real worry would be keyholders not re-setting alarms when they leave.

She said: "There's no insurance issue on disclosure grounds, however we would be concerned if somebody came round when an alarm was sounding and disabled it permanently"

She also said that if the information was abused and keyholders were targeted by thieves, it would not affect insurance claims.

"We will pay claims without any forcible entry," she said.

As reported over the past few weeks, a petition against the measure - which could see alarm owners who fail to register keyholder details fined a fixed notice of £80, increasing to £1,000 if they fail to pay within two weeks - has been mounted because of confidentiality concerns.

Organiser Alan Woolridge has vowed to continue his protests until the council agrees to a rethink. "Everyone I've spoken to is up in arms about it," he said.

But council officers have highlighted two contrasting cases which show that the policy can be effective.

The owners of one home in Barton hadn't registered their details with the council. So when their alarm sounded during the festive period neighbours had to endure the loud ringing for a long time because Envirocrime officers couldn't obtain a court order to gain entry at that time of year.

But when an alarm went off at a home in Kensworth, Envirocrime officers were able to get it switched off quickly as the owners had registered their keyholder details.

They contacted the keyholder, who swiftly silenced the alarm.

"It shows that it does work," said a council spokeswoman.

Source: Dunstable Gazette, 10 January 2007

'Alarms rules won't affect insurance'

This article was published in January 2007. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

The controversial Alarm Notification Area policy in South Beds will not impact on home insurance policies, according to the district council.

Several people living in South Beds have raised concerns that the measure - which means burglar alarm owners have to hand over contact details for their keyholders or face a fine - would impact on their insurance policies.

But a spokeswoman for South Beds District Council said: "We did check with insurance companies before we introduced the scheme and it won't affect home insurance cover."

The measure was introduced to cut down on endlessly ringing alarms and ensure that if a home alarm goes off it can be shut down quickly. South Beds District Council's Envirocrime Unit - who are overseeing the policy - have claimed a victory this week after they used keyholder contact details to quickly silence an alarm in Kensworth.

Source: Dunstable Today, 5 January 2006

We won't ring the changes!

This article was published in December 2006. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

That was the resounding message from South Beds District Council after Gazette readers flagged up their fears that the information database being created could be a valuable resource for criminals.

A petition has already been mounted calling for the council to prolong its condultation period.

The main organiser Alan Woolridge, who lives in Eaton Bray, has been calling on people with security concerns to withhold or withdraw details about the people with keys to their homes until the matter is given more consideration.

He could face a fine himself, as he has refused to submit full details of the people who have keys to his home.

But a statement from the council said: "We have received some enquiries but we have only had two formal requests for details to be removed from the database.

"Over 4,000 residents have registered keyholder details with us and we have received only a small number of complaints in comparison, therefore we do not think it is necessary to reconsider introducing the scheme.

"This is a positive step to reduce noise buisance and improve the environment for people in South Bedfordshire."

Mr Woolridge isn't convinced though. He said: "What they're doing is acknowledging there's a problem but they're not doing anything about it. They're not saying that because of the reaction they're going to defer and adjust it, they're just going to see what happens.

"By going ahead and letting this carry on there are people who are being forced to give information that they don't want to give because they don't think that they've got any alternative."

Mr Wollridge's petition highlights concerns that the database could allow criminals to work out which homes aren't fitter with alarms, and could mean that keyholders are targeted.

He has submitted contact phone numbers for his keyholders but he refuses to give names and addresses to identify who they are.

The alarm notification system which was given the thumbs-up by councillors earlier this year, was introduced in a bid to tackle the noise nuicance caused by ringing alarms.

Householders with burglar alarms are required to register contact information about the people with keys to their home, so that if their alarm sounds when they're away, members of the council's Envirocrime Unit can act quickly to get the alarm turned off.

There will be a warning period of two months, after which time alarm owners could face a fixed fine of £80 if they fail to register these details, and if they don't pay this within 14 days they will be fined £1,000.

Forms can be filled in through the council's website, and can be obtained by contacting the Envirocrime Unit on 01582 474031.

Source: Dunstable Gazette, 27 December 2006

Alarm owners must register with the council

This article was published in November 2006. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

The district council has signed up to an Alarm Notification Order, which requires anyone who is responsible for an intruder alarm to register a keyholder who can be contacted if it sounds unintentionally.

Implementing the order passes the responsibility for maintaining a keyholder database from Beds Police to the district council.

Noise nuisance from alarms occurs all year round but is particularly prevalent during weekends and holiday periods.

The council's Envirocrime Unit has the power to silence alarms but this takes time and can also result in a significant cost to the building owner, possibly in excess of £300.

The order takes effect from midnight on Sunday and anyone responsible for an alarm, whether on a private or commercial property, must register keyholder details before midnight on December 24. Anyone who has a new alarm fitted after Sunday must register it within 28 days.

To comply with the order at least one keyholder must be registered with the council. That person must be able to gain access to the alarm controls; live close to the home or business; know how to turn the alarm off; and agree to be a keyholder. The information held on the database is secure and in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

Anyone who does not comply with the order will face a fixed penalty of £80, or a maximum fine of £1,000 if the fine is not paid within 14 days.

Councillor Brian Spurr has executive responsibility for environmental issues and said: "Building alarms are an extremely useful security measure but can cause a nuisance to local residents if they sound accidentally.

"The order will ensure an up-to-date and accurate database of keyholders that in turn will enable envirocrime officers to silence alarms more quickly and without the expense to the building owner."

Alarms can be registered with the council by filling in a form which is available from the envirocrime unit on telephone number 01582-474031. Copies can also be collected from the council's High Street North, Dunstable, offices or from local libraries and town council offices. A copy of the form can be downloaded from the council's website

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 21 November 2006

Householders face an extra month's 'stealth' tax

This article was published in November 2006. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

South Bedfordshire District Council is to collect council tax payments earlier each month from next spring.

The council's Executive Committee says that changing the collection dates for council tax and non-domestic rates from next April could make annual savings of over £150,000 for the council.

But in effect many householders who are paid their wages later in the month will find they have lost one of their two 'free' annual months.

At present, most people decide to pay their council tax in ten monthly instalments - these are collected from April to January, leaving February and March as 'free' months.

Depending on when people moved to the district, the current payment date is either on the 10th, 18th or 25th of each month.

The Executive have agreed to change the payment date to the 5th.

This will mean in practice that a lot of householders will find the April tax payment is being debited from their March wage packet instead of April's wages.

Executive Member with responsibilities for financial affairs, Cllr Philip Penman, said: "This minor change to the collection dates will make a real difference to our cash flow and should allow us to make significant savings. This will help us to continue to deliver high quality services while keeping council tax bills as low as possible."

The district council collects tax on behalf of the county council, the town and parish councils, and the police and fire authorities - it has to send a calculated amount to these agencies each month. Because much of the tax collected arrives after the time these external payments need to be made, South Bedfordshire District Council has to meet short-term financing costs.

Cllr Penman explained that well over half of the people in the district pay tax by direct debit. He added "This is the most efficient and convenient method of paying these routine bills.

"When the bills are sent out next March, I have asked that a direct debit mandate be included in every envelope. If even more people pay this way, we will be able to further reduce administrative costs and so have more resources available for front-line services."

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 21 November 2006