About Ashley Baxter

At work I'm a specialist in reducing energy and water costs. In my spare time I'm doing my best for the Deepings. At home I'm a husband and dad who likes crossword puzzles.

Barholm, Greatford and Braceborough #RunMyAge

During January 2021, I am participating in Age UK’s ‘Run Your Age’ event by running a total of 51km. It would be great if you would SPONSOR ME to raise funds to support older people in Lincolnshire and across the UK!

On 7th Jan, I ran from Greatford to Barholm then back to Greatford, then on to Braceborough and then back to Greatford. This was a total distance of just over 5km bringing my ‘running total’ to 23km.

I arrived in Greatford at about 8am on a cold and frosty morning. I was barely out of the car before two people jogged past me (very socially distanced from me and each other) adorned in hi-vis and flashing lights which made me less self-concious about the high-vis beanie hat I had bought for just this type of occasion.

I set off along the straight-line footpath South towards Barholm. Almost immediately I was at the edge of the village and young rabbits were chasing each other across the frozen ground (It would  have been more poetic if they were hares heading toward the Hare and Hounds PH but I’m pretty sure they were rabbits). A large bird was coasting on the thermals overhead and the whole scene gave me some idea why so many runners choose to exercise in the early morning. I am not usually one of them.

A couple of stiles and a footbridge brought me to Barholm church whereupon I turned round and headed back to Greatford where I ran through and past the church which lies between two sections of the River West Glen. You must understand that this place used to be a ‘great ford’.

On one of my previous visits, I had noticed two prominent gravestones close to the door of the church, one of which had a latin motto. Intrigued, I did a little research and discovered it was the grave of Harry Dowsett who was one of the former residents of Greatford Hall which is adjacent to the church. To say Mr Dowse was a ‘character’ is an understatement. He made his early fortune during WW2 supplying motor launches and landing craft to the Royal Navy.

In 1944 he registered a patent for pre-stressed concrete which was first manufactured in Tallington where concrete products are still made today.

In later life he was celebrated as a captain of industry but in 1977 was caught in a controversy that sounds like the plot of a PG Wodehouse story. He was at home in bed when his faithful chauffeur-valet of 25 years popped in. Mr Dowsett demanded a drink and, when the valet entered an adjoining room, Dowsett shot him shouting “I’ve got you, you bastard!”.

In court, Dowsett’s QC claimed that the chauffeur-valet was “the last person in the world Mr Dowsett would ever normally want to injure” but, despite this defence, Mr Dowsett was found guilty of unlawful wounding and paid a fine of £1,500 which was apparently the going rate for shooting one’s chauffeur in the 1970s.

The last house to the North of the village is the Old Rectory which is a surprising distance from the church. Beyond lay the frosty footpaths that took me to Braceborough which I entered via a farmgate. I heeded the sign which explained that the gate needed to remain closed to keep the local deer from entering people’s gardens.

A few hundred yards further on brought me to St Margaret of Antioch church in Braceborough which overlooks a picture postcard village green.

According to the Golden Legend, St Margaret was a native of Antioch and the daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. Her mother died soon after her birth, so Margaret was nursed by a Christian woman five or six leagues (6.9–8.3 miles) from Antioch. Having embraced Christianity and consecrated her virginity to God, Margaret was disowned by her father, adopted by her nurse, and lived in the country keeping sheep with her foster mother (in what is now Turkey). Olybrius, Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East, asked to marry her, but with the demand that she renounce Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents are said to have occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon’s innards. The Golden Legend describes this last incident as “apocryphal and not to be taken seriously”

The church stands to the East of the village facing out towards the manor house and open fields. The reason for the importance of the village in days long gone was the existence of a spa about a mile from the village. The healing waters of this spa drew people in from far and wide, and George III was drawn here, visiting the church in 1770. It seems like a long time ago but it has recently become quite topical because it was a previous famous occasion that the people of the America were concerned about the mental stability of their supreme ruler.

The Royal coat of arms adorns one wall of the nave, which commemorates his visit. George III was looking for a cure for his mental illness, and was treated by the famous doctor Willis, with the Royal patient being treated in a wing of the nearby Shillingthorpe Hall, now demolished. The hall later became a private lunatic asylum.

Back to the run and, once again, about-turn and back to Greatford where the Hare and Hounds PH was sadly shut due to the pandemic (and it being very early in the morning). I’ve been to the Hare and Hounds a few times and it’s a lovely pub that normally used to have a friendly Tuesday evening quiz and absolutely awesome pizza. I look forward to visiting again when the pandemic is over although it seems villagers can currently order takeaway food as per the sign in the photo.

Uffington to Barholm #RunMyAge

During January 2021, I am participating in Age UK’s ‘Run Your Age’ event by running a total of 51km. It would be great if you would SPONSOR ME to raise funds to support older people in Lincolnshire and across the UK!

On 3rd Jan, I ran from Uffington to Barholm via Casewick Hall. This was only 4.5km so I ran a little bit of the way back to bring my ‘running total’ to 18km.

[You may have noticed that I skipped the step from Tallington to Uffington. This is because I do not know of a safe, sensible and legal right of way to run between the two villages. I said in my previous post that I felt vulnerable running a stretch of the Stamford Road between Tallington and West Deeping; well, sadly, the A1175 leaving Tallington in the other direction is probably more dangerous with very little dedicated pavement for pedestrians and cycles until Copthill farm. I ran ‘there and back’ between the two villages last summer using the South bank of the river Uffington to Tallington which is not a designated public footpath and found parts were inaccessible other than across farmers’ sticky fields, certainly not a choice for January. On the way back from Tallington to Uffington I ran via Casewick Lane, Tallington, most of which I fear was private property. If anyone has a suggestion for another route, I would be happy to try it.]

So, this leg of my ‘tour’ started at St Michael and All Angels Church which currently displays a Christmas star above the village. I like Uffington Church having visited during the annual Uffington scarecrow festivals. One of the graves has some great biblical wisdom inscribed upon it.

Uffington appears to be a meeting point of the local nobility. In the church and around the village various families are celebrated: Earls of Lindsey (the 14th Earl currently lives in Ayrshire); the Trollope baronets of Casewick (the 17th Baronet and current heirs apparent all born in Australia); the Earls of Rutland (who later became Duke of Rutland residing at Belvoir Castle near Grantham); and Barons of Kesteven which I have found a bit confusing – the latest Baroness Kesteven appears to have been Margaret Thatcher but I am sure she is not related to those from Uffington. I am not really the most qualified to speak about the British aristocracy but on this particular run it is unavoidable.

Opposite the church is the school which has an inscription to George Augustus Frederick Albemarle Bertie, 10th Earl of Lindsey. Wikipedia has not been kind to him but the local pub is more friendly having been named ‘the Bertie Arms’ in honour of his family. Lady Charlotte Bertie appears to have been a particular ‘South Kesteven Woman of Achievement’ having given birth to ten children in 13 years, managed an ironworks (which produced the gates to the church), spoke or read eight languages and still found time to knit scarves for London cabbies!

There used to be another pub in the village called the Trollope Arms named after another enobled family which dominate the history of the rest of my route. The Trollope Arms was renamed the Gainsborough Lady but closed in 2006. I wonder if this name refers to the same Gainsborough Lady who is the subject of one of the magnificent oil paintings in Market Deeping Town Hall. I will edit this blog if and when I find out,

A tangled family tree at Casewick Hall

I ran through the village and up Casewick Lane which wend its way up to the gates of Casewick Hall (pronounced ‘Kasik’ or ‘Kazik’). It is said, by estate agents, that there has been a building at Casewick since the Domesday Book and by the 17th century there was a moated mansion. It was at this time that the property was adopted by the aforementioned Trollopes who had it ‘done up’ more fashionably over the next few centuries. The hall has now been split into a handful of smaller, perhaps more manageable dwellings but, from the outside at least, it still looks like a nice place to live.

When I ran through last summer, I took a wrong turn and found a small obelisk with uncertain dedication. I can’t find a listing for it anywhere. Does anyone know for whom it is dedicated?

After Casewick Hall, I crossed a couple of muddy fields to the railway track. The gate was locked even though the Lincs County Council Rights of Way website had no reported closure. It was clear that people were still crossing the line using a combination of the gaps in the fence and common sense, so I joined them and proceeded towards Barholm.

The footpath led to the Old Hall at Barholm which is still a Trollope family residence; inhabited by former Chair of Lincs County Council Martin Trollope-Bellew (Con) and his wife Rosemary Trollope-Bellew (Con) who is the current County Councillor for Deepings West and Rural. The couple have been so much involved in local politics that their engagement began at a Council meeting when, at the very end of his term as Chair of the Council, Martin asked Rosemary to marry him. It was very sweet and was caught on camera!

As you might expect, the Trollope family have been heavily involved in village history over the years and there are memorials in the church remembering Capt Thomas Trollope (3rd Baron Kesteven) who was killed during WW1 and to his nephew Lieut Anthony Trollope-Bellew who was a casualty of WW2 as well as the other men of Barholm who died in conflict.

The Trollope-Bellews are still supporters of the Cottesmore Hunt and though they might have disposed of Casewick Hall, they still appear to own a great deal of property in the area via the Barholm Estate including much of the village including the five horseshoes pub. The pub is a lovely traditional English pub and definitely worth a visit (after the pesky Covid has gone) although I personally prefer the Hare and Hounds in nearby Greatford.

Christmas in Barholm

Coun Mrs Trollope-Bellew also currently serves on South Kesteven District Council where she is Cabinet Member with portfolio for Culture. The Leader of SKDC, Coun Kelham Cooke (Con) also lives in the village so I guess, in some ways, this humble village remains a ‘seat of power’ in South Kesteven.

West Deeping to Tallington #RunMyAge

During January 2021, I am participating in Age UK’s ‘Run Your Age’ event by running a total of 51km. It would be great if you would SPONSOR ME to raise funds to support older people across the UK!

Today, 2nd Jan, I ran from West Deeping to Tallington and back. The wiggly route I chose was 8km bringing the total so far to 13km.

Today, 2nd Jan, I ran from West Deeping to Tallington and back. The wiggly route I chose was 8km bringing the total so far to 13km.

After the ‘brisk warm up walk’ that the C25K commentator always used to rave about, I started running from the Roman Road of King Street which forms the main street through West Deeping.

I followed the footpath which runs behind the pub and then splits; I followed the left fork which leads toward the Tallington. Meeting a couple of dogs, and their owners, along the way, I soon spotted the incongrous dry ski slope – you don’t get many of those on the edge of the fens! A little bit further and I arrived at the Whistle Stop PH next to the notorious Tallington level crossing.

Most of Tallington village is on the other side of the level crossing and after a few hundred yards I was able to follow a footpath next to the former post office which leads through to a well-equipped playground and onto a section of the Stamford canal. The canal was the first post-Roman navigation in the UK and was designed to take shipping from Stamford, through the Deepings and out to the sea at Spalding. It took over a hundred years to complete, leaving just a little bit of time for operations before being made irrelevant by the railway revolution. The sections in Tallington are well marked but mostly dry.

At the end of the village is the church of St Lawrence of Rome. It has closed due to Covid each time I have visited but a good description is here. In the porch there are some hints for how to be effective in worship, which have aged well.

Last time I ran this way I bumped into Parish Councillor Ken Otter a long-time campaigner for an alternative to Tallington Crossing. During 2020, Tallington Parish Council had published a proposal for a Stamford East-West bypass which would include a bridge over the railway which would reduce the current congestion and traffic in the village caused by the level crossing which is sometimes closed for more than 50 minutes in the hour! The route would also ease congestion in Stamford by providing an alternative route for vehicles heading from our direction onto the A1.

Stamford North Bypass
A Stamford bypass proposal presented by Tallington PC.

After a brief pause at the church I headed back to the Tallington crossing which, as per usual, had just closed. As a pedestrian I was able to cross via the footbridge.

I then turned left onto the public footpath which runs behind the Jet filling station and the concrete works. One of Tallington’s claims to fame is that it is was the UK birthplace of pre-stressed concrete. Production has recently been increased thanks to a contract to produce segments for a new 25km sewage tunnel under the Thames.

Ironically, sewage is a problem in Tallington as well as London. Some residents in West Deeping face regular problems of sewage backflow in their homes which Anglian Water claim to have been investigating for years. Sadly, there is still no firm conclusion regarding the cause or the solution to the problems.

Many have suggested that a contributory factor is the seemingly relentless increase in static caravans at Tallington Lakes Leisure Park being connected to the same sewer as West Deeping. Tallington Lakes was the next landmark on my run. The site was originally granted planning permission for a caravan park about 20 years ago on the assumption that there would be around 100 caravans. There are now around 400 households living on site as well as touring vans, campers, outdoor swimming, dry ski-slope, waterskiing and other activities. Undoubtedly, Tallington Lakes has a significant and positive impact on the Deepings local economy but there are also inevitably questions relating to the traffic, noise and other issues relating to the site. In February 2020, there was a multi-agency visit to the site involving Environment Agency, South Kesteven District Council and the police. It is my understanding that the investigation is ongoing and hasn’t been helped by the Covid pandemic.

The next milestone was the smaller water-ski operation of Moorelake House which was granted planning permission during 2020. I was originally concerned about the introduction of more caravans to Tallington but on reading the planning application I discovered that there would be no discharge of waste to the public sewer and so I was happy to speak in support of the application at SKDC planning committee. The new facility will enable people to learn water-ski and wakeboarding skills from professionals including wake-board legend Ollie Moore.

On reaching the junction with Stamford Road, I crossed over and found a clear path to run along behind a hedge for a few hundred yards. Sadly, when this path ran out I had little option but to run along the busy Stamford Road. For a few hundred yards there was no footpath or cycleway to keep me safe from the traffic and I felt very vulnerable in the middle of the day. It is a dreadful road to walk or cycle along especially when it gets dark. The foot-path alternatives are muddy, they have no lighting and they are not suitable for bicycles. Lincolnshire certainly has room for improvement when it comes to safe and sustainable transport!

Cross-party agreement at @southkesteven for a closer look at scrutiny…

I am delighted to report that at the South Kesteven Full Council meeting of 17 December, Councillors agreed unanimously with my proposal that the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees could benefit from a bit more, well, overview and scrutiny!

A report was presented to the Council by ‘Chair of Chairs’, Cllr Graham Jeal (Con), on behalf of the four Overview and Scrutiny Committees was supposed to be only for noting. However, I introduced a ‘motion without notice’, in line with the Council’s constitution, in order to recommend that:

“the role structure and performance of the scrutiny committees should be referred to a suitable independent individual, nominated by the LGA, to review whether or not it is fit for purpose and how it might be improved”

I suggested that the Council Leader, Cllr Kelham Cooke (Con) should not be involved in the debate because he had previously claimed that he didn’t get involved in the management and workings of scrutiny committees (even though he personally appoints the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of all the Scrutiny Committees which are [ahem] coincidentally filled entirely by Conservatives. However, I was surprised and delighted when he did intervene to ask his Conservative colleagues to support the review of scrutiny which was then passed unanimously.

Here is the text of the speech I made to encourage the Council to review its scrutiny function:

“Thank you very much, Chair,

I’m pleased to see that we’re scrutinising scrutiny for a change, but this report is a bit like a “What I did in the holidays” type of essay. A list of information without any reflection or self-criticism.

Continue reading

Market Deeping to West Deeping #RunMyAge

During January 2021, I am participating in Age UK’s ‘Run Your Age’ event by running a total of 51km. It would be great if you would SPONSOR ME to raise funds to support older people across the UK!

Today is New Year’s Day and so I put my best foot forward and ran a 5k from Market Deeping to West Deeping.

Starting on Godsey Lane, I ran along Bramley Road, then through the footpath to the Grove. I then ran up Church Street, past St Guthlac’s church and onto St Guthlac’s Avenue where I literally bumped into a friend from St Guthlac’s church almost knocking her into the hedge. Nothing broken, other than my concentration, and teaching me an important lesson of ‘look where you’re going’!

“The day is thine” – Architectural wisdom at St Guthlac’s church.

I then ran round Meadway and Sandringham Way across Tattershall and over to Millfield. The Mill Field is the subject of a long-running and ongoing planning dispute. The field is a popular and accessible open space with a public footpath across the middle. Lincolnshire County Council own the land and wanted to build 270 houses on it. Happily, their application was rejected by the South Kesteven District Council Planning Committee on 28th October after receiving many objections and representations from local people including a five-minute speech from me as Ward Councillor (Previous comments I made about the Millfield village green application, the previous year, can be found on YouTube or at the foot of this blogpost).

After crossing the by-pass, I followed the footpath through to Molecey’s Mill on Stamford Road and then another along the side of a Welland tributary which was muddy, but not too muddy. The sunlight and the birds and the river combined to make one forget that it is ‘bleak midwinter’.

This brought me to the Lane, West Deeping and through to the Red Lion PH which is sadly closed due to current Tier 4 Covid restrictions.

Heading South, I rounded the corner to St Andrew’s Church and slightly beyond to make the run up to a round 5km.

I visiting St Andrew’s a couple of times during runs in 2020. It currently hosts an informal lending library in the porch if you fancy a read. Inside the church is a comprehensive guide to the graves in the churchyard as well as some certificates celebrating successes in the ‘South Kesteven ‘Tourist Church of the Year’ of 20 years ago.

If you would like to know what St Andrew’s West Deeping is like today, I would thoroughly recommend attending one of their regular Sunday ‘Zoom’ services from the comfort of your own home. You will surely receive a warm welcome!

Night of the long knives at Deepings Youth Club secret AGM.

Disputed elections are not just a recent American phenomena. Last night, the management of Deepings Youth Group (DYG) attracted criticism when two long-standing members of the youth club’s governing body were virtually defenestrated as power over the funds and activities of the organisation was further consolidated into the hands of a small cadre following a coup two years ago.

Members of the public were neither invited nor welcome at the Annual General Meeting which followed recent public controversy over the group’s funding.. This year, DYG will receive around £15,000 from the Parish and Town which represents about 80% of the group’s total income.

[Author’s note: I wouldn’t usually write about the internal machinations of a community group but the recent decision by Market Deeping Town Council to temporarily withhold grant funding from DYG demonstrated that people are particularly interested in how the youth club is managed].

The meeting was preceded by a kind of postal election in which each of the Trustees were given the opportunity to vote for (or against) each other. Anyone who achieved 50% of the votes was declared elected but those who failed to win the approval of their colleagues were unceremoniously removed from the Board. No votes were cast other than by the existing Trustees and there were no new nominees (other than those people co-opted by the Board since the previous meeting).

A few days prior to the meeting, Cllr Phil Dilks requested an up-to-date copy of the DYG constitution in order to ascertain whether the procedures for the AGM, including the election of Trustees, were being followed correctly. No copy was supplied to him. Nevertheless, it seems highly unlikely that the Youth Club was paying attention to its own rules because according to the Minutes of Market Deeping Town and Deeping St James Parish Councils, several were originally appointed directly by those Councils.

The meeting took place via Zoom yesterday evening and was Chaired by Jayne Reed who, at the beginning of the meeting immediately requested permission to vary the agenda which she had sent out the previous week. Miss Reed said she thought it was appropriate to bring forward the declaration of the results of the vote to the top of the agenda. She did not explain her reasons but the Committee agreed and the results were announced. The two Trustees who failed to gain 50% support were Parish Councillor Andrew Bowell (Ind) and Parish and District Councillor Phil Dilks (Ind). The Chair then asked them to leave the meeting and a few moments later they were disconnected by the meeting administrator.

Cllr Dilks had perhaps made himself unpopular with the rest of the board by stating publicly that he disassociated himself from the comments, social media posts and petitions which had been published when the October meeting of Market DeepingTown Council decided to postpone payment of a grant which had been earmarked for DYG.

At the time, the Council had a number of concerns about the financial stability of DYG and asked for clarification of some of figures which had been mentioned in the accounting statements provided by the group. Market Deeping Town Council’s representative on the DYG Trustees, Cllr Xan Collins (Con), chose not to answer any questions about the Youth Club at that meeting insisting that the Council had earmarked £7,000 for DYG and the group was therefore entitled to a grants for that amount. The decision to delay the second of two grant payments was voted on with the result 3 in favour, 3 against and 4 abstentions. The Deputy Mayor, Cllr Virginia Moran (Ind) used her casting vote to delay the payment.

After that decision, representatives of the DYG Board were invited to speak to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor at a meeting which held answer the questions but not before the Town Council, and Cllr Moran in particular, had been villified on social media.

Later that month, the DYG Trustees met, virtually, for the first time since Lockdown and Paul Hanson resigned as Chair. Mr Hanson had been elected as a Town Councillor in May 2019 but resigned unexpectedly in May 2020. He is the partner of a Conservative SKDC Councillor who is also a Trustee of DYG.

Jayne Reed stepped into the breach and took on the role of Chair. Miss Reed is also familiar with the role of a Town Councillor having been served on the Council on more than one occasion and having resigned in 2017 causing a by-election which was successfully contested by Cllr Moran.

At the November meeting of Market Deeping Town Council, the councillors voted on the DYG funding once again. This time there were 5votes in favour of awarding the grant, 1 against and 4 abstentions. One of the Councillors expressed the view that he had previously been in favour of awarding the grant but after seeing the vociferous social media attacks after the previous meeting he was now concerned about the suitability of the Trustees. This view resonated with the personal comments made by Cllr Dilks during the public open forum before the meeting,

At the time of the October meeting, at least one trustee accused Cllr Moran of holding a personal vendetta. It now seems that there is indeed a personal vendetta, but it is not the one we were warned about!

The reasons why Cllr Bowell was not re-elected are less obvious. Certainly, he is not hesitant to ask questions or express his opinions but surely those are good qualities for a Trustee? Until March this year, Cllr Bowell, a former bank manager, was the Treasurer of DYG but he resigned as Treasurer I think because of differences of opinion with the Chair at the time. Whatever the reasons for their removal from the Board, their early removal from the meeting meant that neither Cllr Dilks nor Cllr Bowell could ask questions about the Chair’s report to the AGM, nor the Treasurers report to the AGM, the first of which would likely be “Who is currently the Treasurer of DYG?”.

Miss Reed believes that the Trustees are not obliged to hold an AGM, let alone allow members of the public to attend. Consequently, when I asked if I could attend the virtual AGM I was told I could not and that only Trustees had been invited. Procedurally, there might not be an obligation to allow members of the public, funding bodies, local councillors like me, members of the press, parents of youth club users or even the many young people who allegedly use the service. The organisations that my teenage children are involved in are usually very keen to encourage parents and potential sponsors to get involved. Given all the recent public hoo-hah over the funding of the Youth Club you might have thought the Trustees would be only too keen to open the doors. You have to wonder why DYG are so reluctant to allow people to see what’s happening!

Footnote 1: As explained above, I wasn’t allowed to attend the DYG but I am confident that the information above is all factually correct. If anyone points out any mistakes; inaccuracies or even typos, I will be happy to edit accordingly.

Footnote 2: For avoidance of doubt: I am not criticising the Youth Club; not its staff members or the people who use the Youth Club; I have no problem with the aims and objectives of the DYG. If I have a criticism of DYG it is limited to the lack of transparency of its operations and the manner in which the AGM was conducted.

Leisure Issues in the Deepings – (Nov 20 Report to MDTC #3 of 3)

Report to MDTC Full Council  11th November 2020
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Continued from previous post

Leisure News

At yet another secret briefing for Councillors, Cllr Dobson and Officers shared some scant detail of the proposals for the proposed new Deepings Leisure Centre. The good news is that there is some evidence of progress and, after eight months of asking, Deepings Councillors have now seen some of the detail involved. There is also some evidence that some of our lobbying has been taken into account in the draft designs produced so far.

The bad news is that the information remains confidential and there are still plenty of unanswered questions regarding the design, the business case and the route by which the Leisure Centre will be delivered.

Independent Deepings Councillors have arranged an informal meeting with the representatives of local Sports Clubs in order to ensure we still understand local aspirations for the new sports facilities. We also intend to compare notes regarding the incorporation of Leisure SK which is a company being set up within SKDC in order to manage the Leisure Centres directly rather than contracting out to 1Life.

Victory over Deepings Special Expense Area

At the Finance Committee yesterday, it was agreed to recommend the abolition of the Deepings Special Expense Area charge. This is a item on the Council Tax bills of all Deepings residents (and only Deepings residents) which relates to the costs of mowing and maintaining the sports fields at the Deepings School.

I first started lobbying the Council on this issue in 2015 soon after I was first elected to SKDC. I finally got it put on an agenda last June when the issue was kicked into the long grass (forgive the pun). It was to be revisited in January next year which would have been too late to remove it from next years budget cycle. Thanks to the intervention of Cllr Phil Dilks (Ind) and I, it was brought forward to yesterday’s meeting. There was a long debate during which some Councillors grumbled about the Special Expense Areas in their own towns. Cllr Bob Adams (Con) argued that the Council shouldn’t address the issue of the Deepings SEA until all the questions of SEA across the District could be resolved. Thankfully, the rest of the Committee could see the particular injustice of the Deepings SEA – after all, it’s £3.33 per household to pay for a facility that is not accessible to the public – and common sense won the day. Your Deepings Council Tax bills should be £3.33 light next year!

As ever, if you have been affected by any of the issues raised in the report, please feel free to get in touch with me by any means necessary!

Ashley Baxter
SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping
11th November 2020

To read the first two parts of my November report to Market Deeping Town Council, please click the links below.

SKDC Planning issues including news on Mill Field and the BP filling station.

SKDC Housing issues including details of the recent shocking audit report

Housing Issues in South Kesteven – (Nov 20 Report to MDTC #2 of 3)

Report to MDTC Full Council  11th November 2020
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Continued from previous post

Housing Matters

Last week, District Councillors were invited to a secret briefing about a recent auditor’s report into the awful state of the SKDC Housing Department. The report contains a litany of underperformance and compliance failures over more than a decade (Incidentally, the briefing was attended by all three of the Deepings Independent SKDC Councillors but none of the three Deepings Conservative SKDC Councillors)

The failures include the lack of an up-to-date Stock Condition Survey and the lack of up-to-date electrical and fire safety reports.

In June this year, in response to comments from Market Deeping residents, I personally requested details of the Council’s ‘Void Policy’, i.e. the system for ensuring that Council Houses which become vacant are quickly checked for problems; repaired; and made fit for the next occupants in a timely fashion. In June I was promised that a new Senior Officer was working on a new Voids Policy which should be implemented by November 2020. Surprise, surprise, there is not yet any sign of even a draft Voids Policy.

The Council also claims to have a rolling target (and budget) for delivering 500 new homes over 5 years. In reality, the Council built only 60 houses between 2014 and 2017 and ZERO new council houses since then until earlier this year when 14 single-bed modular build dwellings were completed in Grantham.

The SKDC spin-doctors will claim that the Council did build houses via its wholly-owned subsidiary company Gravitas Housing Ltd which was established to ‘disrupt the market place’. In four years, Gravitas has only completed a single project of 25 homes at Wherry’s Lane in Bourne, most of which remain unsold.

In January this year, Cllr Barry Dobson (Con) presented a report to the Companies Committee outlining proposals to find a strategic partner to support the delivery of new homes as part of the Council’s “strategic ambitions for housing growth and delivery in the District”

The prefaces from 2017 and the 2020 SK Housing Strategies. The text is identical.

Two weeks ago, Cllr Dobson returned to the Companies Committee with a report explaining why a housing partnership will not be pursued at this time but might be considered in the future.

Some of the staff responsible for this mess have now left the authority but some of the Conservative Councillors who presided over this clear dereliction of duty are still in office, for example Cllr Dobson held the Portfolio for Housing between May 2019 and January 2020 and is now the Deputy Leader and responsible for the delivery of the famous new Deepings Leisure Centre.

Hats off to the relatively new Chief Executive, Karen Bradford, and the new Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Robert Reid (Con) for grasping the nettle and self-referring the Council to Housing Regulator.

For ease of reading, my November report to Market Deeping Town Council is split into three. Here are links to the other parts:

SKDC Planning issues including details of the recent shocking audit report

SKDC Leisure issues including a brief explanation of what’s happening with the Leisure Centre


Footnote:
The Auditors identified the following 16 findings where management actions were agreed:

Continue reading

Planning Issues in the Deepings – (Nov 20 Report to MDTC #1 of 3)

Report to MDTC Full Council  11th November 2020
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Good evening, Councillors.

Sadly, once again we are in ‘lockdown’ and so the Town Council meeting will once again take place via Zoom.

A very busy month at South Kesteven District Council. I will try to bring you the edited highlights beginning with some planning matters.

Millfield Decision

I am delighted to report that the SKDC Planning Committee refused the application from Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) to build 260 on the old showground at Millfield Road. This is the latest episode in LCC’s quest to squander Market Deeping’s last remaining accessible open space for the sake of a short-term cash advantage.

I attended the Committee and spoke against the application, as did MDTC Cllr David Shelton, Pam Steel who is Chair of the Friends of Mill Field and Chandra Mistry who is among the many people who have campaigned very hard for several years to defend the site from development.

This particular battle of Mill Field has been won but I suspect the intransigence of the Conservative County Council will mean that the war is not yet over. The next stage will be the County Council’s challenge to the draft Neighbourhood Plan which is likely to be heard by the Inspector next month.

War Memorial Decision

At the same Planning Committee meeting, Cllr Virginia Moran and I also spoke against an application to erect a 6ft war memorial outside Callow’s cigar shop. While we all consider it very important to honour those who fought and those who died in service of our country, the Committee agreed that this particular application would not be in keeping with our ancient market place and there was insufficient evidence of community support for the memorial.

The Deepings already has at least four war memorial including those in the two parish churches which were chosen soon after the First World War by those who bore the raw grief of loss of their friends and family. I am not convinced that a further memorial will assist in our acts of remembrance.

However, on this Armistice Day, I should mention that I accepted the Mayor’s invitation to attend the formal opening of the Deepings Garden of Remembrance which, as usual, was an appropriately decorous event.

Proposed Extension to Rectory Cottage

Planners recently considered an application to remove 3 mature holly trees at Rectory Cottage, Market Deeping. The applicants claimed the trees were damaging a garden wall. Working alongside the Town Council I tried my best to save these trees from the chainsaw but the SKDC Tree Consultant did not agree that the trees added to the visual amenity of our town, despite being in a Conservation Area and just yards from the cemetery and the award-winning Rectory Paddock.

Now, just six week’s later, the householders have submitted an application to demolish the garden wall they used to care so much about and expand the boundary of their property up to the public footpath. I have requested this application be dealt with by the elected Councillors serving on the Planning Committee rather than delegated to Council Officers.

BP Filling Station Appeal

I regret to report that despite representations from Market Deeping Town Council, Langtoft Parish Council, local residents and myself, the Planning Inspector has decided to overturn the decision of elected Councillors and permit the application for a filling station, retail premises and café to the North of the Langtoft roundabout. During the appeal process, the applicants altered the application to imply that it will be able to refuel electric vehicles even though, during the original planning process, this was supposed to be impractical.

This is a greenfield site which has not been allocated within the Local Plan and, as far as I’m concerned, will be a Trojan Horse for development of all the land North of the by-pass up to Langtoft. In the words of Joni Mitchell: “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”.

Bike Rack

I was as surprised and appalled as everyone else to see the neon green bike rack in the centre of Market Deeping. As a regular cyclist I have never found any difficult in parking my bike securely in the town centre. It is typical of the remote and out-of-touch County Council to impose and dispose this facility in the heart of our Conservation Area without any proper thought or consultation. It is astonishing that they didn’t even consult the County Councillor for area and that she seems powerless to have it removed.

For ease of reading, my November report to Market Deeping Town Council is split into three. Here are links to the other parts:

SKDC Housing issues including details of the recent shocking audit report

SKDC Leisure issues including a brief explanation of what’s happening with the Leisure Centre

DeliverSK – £90,000 Well spent?

In a recent post published prior to SKDC Companies Committee, I mentioned that progress towards DeliverSK had been slow and uncertain. I also mentioned that it has already cost the Council £90,000 for a company that hasn’t even been incorporated.

The DeliverSK wheeze was one of a number of initiatives which involved recycling ideas from Peterborough City Council and I have mentioned several of them previously on this blog. It was noted at Full Council last week, by one of my Independent colleagues, that the ‘Peterborough Project’ now appears to be over and the council has changed direction.

The £90,000 was split three ways. £50,000 for the expertise of Pinsent Masons who, we are told, are very good at the legal aspects of setting up arms-length enterprises for the council. Indeed, they were very clued up when I asked (on 29 August 2018) how it was possible for the council to enter a multi-million partnership with a third party finance company without an formal procurement process. The Company would not be procuring works or services; they would be seeking and selecting an investment partner so no need for all that pesky red-tape.

The next £6,000 went to KPMG. Don’t ask me what for because I don’t know.

The remaining £34,339 went to Peterborough City Council. I didn’t really understand what this was for until this morning when I had a reply to a request for further information. Apparently, a decision was taken to take one of Peterborough’s senior staff members on secondment. He worked for South Kesteven for 50 days (excluding weekends) between January and March 2019 at a cost of £686 per day. Shortly after he returned from his secondment, Peterborough City Council made him redundant with a massive ‘golden goodbye’.

And what do we, at South Kesteven, have to show for it?

That’s a rhetorical question, as I am sure you can guess the answer, but the forthcoming minutes of the closed session of Companies Committee will hopefully shed some light on it.