Report to Market Deeping Full Council – July 11th 2018
Apart from watching World Cup football, I’ve had another busy month. Here are the edited highlights:
Friends of Mill Field
Since my last report, Friends of Mill Field have heard news from the Independent arbiter of the Village Green application. There will be a public inquiry into the application which will probably take place in November.
In an attempt to ‘lock the stable door’, the County Council has taken the gormless decision to register a landowner deposit to declare that they wish to put an end to the recreational use of the land.
I am trying to find out how many people responded to the so-called consultation about potential development on the land.
SKDC’s new Head of Town Centres, Paul Allen, contacted me for a meeting about growing the town’s economy, including an update on the Saturday market. I invited Cllr Virginia Moran to join me the meeting as I know she has done a significant amount of work planning this year’s Christmas market as well as acting as liaison with SKDC regarding the proposed Saturday market. We gave Mr Allen a short tour of Market Deeping explaining the key issues faced by retailers, residents and visitors.
Over 500 people responded to the recent SKDC consultation regarding a weekly market in the old market place. More than 85% of the responses were positive and the County Council is now being consulted because they are technically responsible for the market place. Assuming the County Council don’t drag their feet, the market could be launched in the autumn.Footpath Inquiry
I submitted a short formal response to the Planning Inspectorate concerning the forthcoming inquiry into the diversion of the public footpath (no 4) between Tesco and the Market Deeping Community Primary School. I appreciate the assistance offered by Cllr Adam Brookes on the issue especially in sharing some of the thoughts of the Town Council. In fact, I was taken aback by the quality of the Town Council’s response to the inspectorate which was prepared by Cllr Brookes and the Town Council’s planning committee.
Local Plan Consultation
The final draft SKDC Local Plan is currently out for consultation. The new Local Plan will shape and guide proposals for growth and investment in South Kesteven up to 2036. It will provide greater certainty to all parties regarding the local development process and sets out proposed planning policies for South Kesteven District.
I would politely but strongly encourage all residents to look at the plans for the Deepings and respond to the consultation.
This meeting was the first Overview and Scrutiny Committee to be held outside Grantham (Regular readers will remember that I have been lobbying for years about the need for the Council to hold committee meetings in the smaller towns). It was held in ‘The Baxter Room’ at Wake House Community Centre in Bourne.
During the meeting I asked about:
- Plans for the Deepings Saturday market (see update above)
- Progress report on the Deepings Leisure Centre (it was reported that there is no progress to report at the moment but “It was suggested that the end of September might be an approximate time when further news was available following the work being undertaken.”)
- Why the South Kesteven Communications Team had sent out a press release declaring that “Invest SK is a private company” when no such company has yet been set up (Apparently the Comms Team used ‘the wrong words’!).
The Committee then proceeded to discuss a ‘Quarter 4 Monitoring’ report. Previously, the Growth OSC had always received a budget monitoring report but this time for unknown reasons, the committee was presented with a performance monitoring report. Unfortunately, not only was it the wrong report but it also had no reference data for the previous quarters or previous years and was therefore almost entirely useless. Happily, it was revealed the content of quarterly performance reports, including the KPIs, is being completely revised and no similar reports will be discussed. However, I have asked for historic data just in case it is interesting.
Finally, the Committee agreed not to have a secret members’ workshop on car parking. The Chair revealed that he had not wanted car parking on his agenda in the first place because, if I heard him correctly, it might be ill-advised to talk about putting up car park charges shortly before an election.
However, a contract has been signed between the Council and the operators of the cinema currently being built in Stamford and this contract requires a review of car park charges at that site, so it looks as if some car park charges will be changing after all (but only in Grantham).
You wait for years for a committee meeting outside of the Council offices at St Peter’s Hill and then two arrive in the same month. The Environment OSC was held at the Council’s Alexandra Depot and was preceded by an interesting tour of the CCTV monitoring station, goods yards and workshops.
The main business of the meeting was to discuss the future arrangements for grounds maintenance. The Committee decided to investigate forming a grounds maintenance company to take care of grass cutting, hedge trimming and maintenance of flower beds. The proposed local authority controlled company would look after all the council’s parks and municipal open spaces and is also expected to take on similar work for external clients including town and parish councils.
The preferred option was chosen from four alternatives presented to the committee.
This meeting started with an argument about whether Councillors could ask questions of members of the public who might be attending the meeting to support or oppose a particular application. People get three minutes to speak if they have registered beforehand and Councillors used to be able to ask them questions. However, the Chair thought the Councillors were asking too many awkward questions and people might feel intimidated and therefore it was banned for a period of six months. Now the six months is up, the Full Council will decide later this month whether to change the consultation for ever but in the meantime I argued that because the six months were over the questions should be allowed. The Chair diffused the argument by declaring that no members of the public had registered to speak at that meeting any way!
The first planning application on the agenda was for 25 dwellings on Wherry’s Lane in Bourne. The applicant was Gravitas Housing Ltd which is a company wholly owned by South Kesteven District Council. However, at the very last moment, the Chair declared that the applicant had chosen to withdraw the application from the meeting. I could tell you the reasons why but I am not allowed.
The second application was to build three houses in Great Gonerby. This was approved.
The next was an application in Billingborough which was ‘part-heard’ so I wasn’t allowed to take part in the discussion.
Finally, another part-heard application concerned a proposed disability access ramp at the front of Stamford Methodist Church on Barn Hill. I could speak in this debate because I had attended the original debate. I was quite shocked and dismayed at some of the ignorance shown by other councillors regarding people with disabilities along the lines of assuming that ramps are only used by people in wheelchairs and that it is acceptable for people to make long detours when confronted with steps. Nevertheless, I agreed with the unanimous decision to refuse the application because I believe a more appropriate layout is possible which would cause less visual intrusion within the conservation area and adjacent to a listed building.
Despite promises made to Councillors at the previous shareholders’ meeting, there was no agenda item relating to the company’s business plan. The first report presented to the committee concerned the appointment of two new company directors. The meeting then went into closed session to discuss pipeline projects and progress with the Wherry’s Lane development. For reasons of commercial sensitivity, I am not allowed to tell you anything that was said during the closed session.
The agenda is not yet available for the next full council but I have submitted a motion to question the pointless waste of paper at the meetings. I have calculated the cost of printing and postage for the last meeting must have been around £750!
At the last meeting, we were told that the July meeting would be televised (or broadcast over social media, same difference) so please have your wifi ready!
Cabinet Meeting IN THE DEEPINGS!
The Leader stated that a meeting of the SKDC Cabinet would be convened in the Deepings in September or October. This will be an excellent opportunity to see democracy in action.
Deeping St James Rose & Sweet Pea show
RAF100 at Wellington Way
I was not involved in the organisation of any of these events but I attended them all and was yet again struck by the professionalism, friendliness and sheer scale of organisation. I take my hat off to everyone who was involved for maintaining the reputation of ‘the friendly Deepings’. The same goes for raft race, the duck race and all the other community events taking place over the summer.
As ever, if you need any further information please get in touch. I hope you all have a great summer,
Come on Eng-er-laaand!
Cllr Ashley Baxter
Independent District Councillor
for Market and West Deeping