Under the terms of the Local Government Act, 1972, each Town and Parish Council across the country is obliged to hold an annual public meeting on a date between 1st March and 1st June. Market Deeping held its Annual Town Meeting on 1st May at the Green School in the Town.
Almost 70 people attended the meeting including several Councillors, representatives of local organisations, some residents of the Town and a few interlopers from the neighbouring parish of Deeping St James.
Before the meeting, attendees were offered refreshments and an opportunity to browse stalls from the Royal British Legion, Deepings Youth Centre, Lincolnshire Credit Union and other local groups.
Mayor Pauline Redshaw opened the meeting with a welcome and a few words about her mayoral year which comes to an end next week. Cllr Redshaw expressed disappointment about criticism of the Council on social media and urged residents to approach the Town Clerk if they had a problem with Council services.
As a District Councillor I pick up a lot of relevant information and local issues from Facebook and Twitter as well as reading a wide range of opinions and ideas from constituents. So no offence to Cllr Redshaw, but this is the 21st century and, rather than decrying or ignoring social media, perhaps the Council could consider how to engage with it more effectively?
The introduction was followed by a mercifully brief report from the Chair of the Amenities and Open Spaces Sub-Committee. Cllr Broughton began by declaring that a written report had been circulated and he hoped we had all read it. Given that there were almost seventy people in the room and probably fewer than 30 copies of the agenda and reports, I was probably not the only person who had not read it. Notwithstanding the lack of paperwork, Cllr Broughton gave an update on recent issues including firstly the planting of a hedge and widening of the footpath opposite William Hildyard school. This was offered as an excellent example of partnership working as volunteers, including Councillors, had planted the new hedge and the County Council had laid the new footpath soon afterwards. Secondly Cllr Broughton reported that an ongoing case of ‘unauthorised parking’ (of travellers) on the old Baston End Road was being addressed by the appropriate officers of the District and County Council who were ensuring that due legal process was being followed
Next was the turn of the Chair of Planning and Highways Sub-Committee. Cllr David Shelton informed the meeting that the formal consultation on the Local Plan is imminent and encouraged residents to engage with the process which will include local exhibitions, online consultations etc. He also brought residents up-to-date with progress on the Deepings Neighbourhood Plan.
Cllr Roy Stephenson followed with his annual report from the Town Hall and Cemeteries Sub-Committee. On behalf of his committee, he boasted of the new chipper purchased to reduce the financial and environmental costs of green waste disposal. Most of the Council’s green waste is now recycled… as are many of Cllr Stephenson’s jokes! (and I’m sure he won’t mind me saying so). The other big news from this Sub-Committee is that the Town Hall door has been repainted and now opens without any need for brute force.
Reports from formal committees were followed by feedback from Cllr Virginia Moran about the ongoing SKDC consultation relating to a proposed Saturday market in the old market place. Over 300 responses have been received and nearly all of them favourable. With a fair wind the weekly market could start this September. Stall-holders at the Wednesday market will be invited, along with others, to sell goods at the Saturday market if and when it goes ahead.
Pam Byrd of the Deepings First Neighbourhood Planning Group gave a brief explanation of the Deepings Green Walk project to enhance and consolidate the network of pedestrian and cycle routes across the Deepings.
Cllr Nick Neilson had been scheduled to address the meeting about the SKDC Members Ward Budget scheme but was unable to attend the meeting. Consequently, Cllr Ashley Baxter (that’s me, folks!) stepped in to outline how the scheme works i.e. each of the 56 SKDC Councillors has been allocated £1,000 to spend on community projects for the benefit of their ward. Cllr Baxter explained to the meeting that organisations interested in receiving funding through the scheme could approach any, or all, of their District Councillors. It is perfectly possible that, aside from the aforementioned £1,000, the ward Councillor might be able to signpost people to other available community funding pots, e.g. Tesco Bags of Help, SKDC Community fund etc.
Sgt Emma-Jayne Crisp gave a short presentation summarising the key priorities for policing in the Deepings. She said that although her team have to deal issues of Anti-Social Behaviour, burglary etc, we should remember that the Deepings is still a lovely place to live and work (Amen to that!).
With presentations and speeches completed, Cllr Redshaw opened the meeting to questions from the floor. The first question was about the attendance and activities of the Deepings Youth Club and was answered by Kate Jacobs who is a member of staff at DYC.
The second question was asked by Pam Steel on behalf of the Friends of Millfield. Mrs Steel summarised the current situation concerning the Millfield site including the ongoing Village Green application. She asked if the Council, as a corporate entity, would continue to support the protection of Millfield against development. Cllr Redshaw stated publicly that the Council intended to do so.
Another question concerned Footpath 4 which had been mentioned during Cllr Shelton’s speech. Footpath 4 is the link path between John Eve Field and Linchfield Road which has been built over by Tesco and Persimmon leaving only a narrow path with an adverse camber between hundreds of new houses and the local primary schools. Cllr Adam Brookes has done a lot of work on this issue and valiantly attempted to explain a relatively complex issue in a concise manner. The issue is explained in more detail on Cllr Brookes’ blog.
A few more questions from the floor completed the meeting. On the whole, it was an upbeat and informative meeting although it suffered some verbosity. There was plenty of opportunity to ask questions to Councillors and community organisations before and after the meeting. In some ways it was a shame that more people didn’t attend the meeting.
On the other hand, it is just as well more people didn’t attend as the Green School was barely sufficient for the number of people and the type of meeting. Last year the event was held at the Deepings Community Centre which has more chairs and better acoustics. Even the Coronation Hall might have been more appropriate; it would at least have comfortably seated all those who wished to attend. It also has better parking.
However my main criticism of the Market Deeping Town Meeting is the lack of any kind of visual aid. Where else, in this day and age, would you expect 70 people to listen in virtual silence to a series of speeches of up to 20 minutes in length with no powerpoint, video or any other prop?
At the end of the meeting I looked around the room and discovered that I was probably among the five youngest attendees (and I’m almost 50!). Occasionally people bemoan the fact that there aren’t more young people involved in community activities and politics. Sadly, people under 50 are not likely to engage with a system which proudly rejects social media, powerpoint and everything else the 21st century has to offer. Perhaps next year, the Annual Town Meeting should be replaced by a webinar?!