Report to Market Deeping Town Council – January 2020

Report to MDTC Full Council  15th January 2020
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Happy New Year to all Town and Parish Councillors, residents of the Deepings anyone else who is takin the time to read this. I hope your 2020 is splendid!

Climate Emergency

Regular readers will know that the Council (SKDC) declared a climate emergency in September 2019. SKDC has now appointed a Climate Change Officer and have also begun a set of ‘Task and Finish’ workshops and engaged the Carbon Trust to assist with compiling baseline data to ensure a meaningful Action Plan is delivered.

Saturday Market

The market which was launched with much fanfare by InvestSK at Easter last year has struggled against inclement weather and lack of budget which has led to a spiral of decline with few stalls leading to few customers and vice versa. The last stall threw in the towel just before Christmas (and hats off to the Brown Bread stall for sticking it out for so long) and, in light of the lack of any traders, SKDC have decided to cease trading until later this year. It is not clear whether the Spring will bring a revived Saturday market or a relocation of the ongoing Wednesday market, or neither, or both.

Deeping Shorts – Film Festival

The Open Door Baptist Church is hosting ‘Deeping Shorts’ – a short festival of short films – on the first four Saturday evenings in February. It has been organised in association with the help and support of InvestSK/SKDC and will make use of the cinema screen originally purchased for the Deepings Arts Group. The films have been collated from 17 different countries and include a range of comedies, animations and thought provoking works. Many have won awards. Tickets are £5 from Stamford Arts Centre or at ODBC on the night. Here’s an excerpt from one of the films…

Deepings 10k

The date of the Rotary Club of the Deepings Road Race (10k) and Fun Run 3k) has been announced as Sunday May 17th. This year, for the first time, it is possible to register on-line which is what I’ve done. I hope to see lots of you there!

Leisure Centre / All Weather Pitch

I have had quite a few people contact me about the demise of the AWP (aka Deepings Astro). Many young hockey and football players are now having to travel several miles to Stanground and elsewhere in order to train and play matches.

I have met the SKDC Head of Leisure to discuss the replacement of the AWP and I am hopeful that it will arrive long before the rest of the planned new leisure centre. £200k has been set aside in next year’s budget towards the cost of replacing the AWP.

Local Plan Inspector’s Report / Mill Field

The final report from the Planning Inspector relating to the SKDC Local Plan has been published. The most interesting paragraph is the one which states that there is no need to build on Mill Field because there is adequate supply of land allocated for housing elsewhere in the Deepings.

Musical Chairs

Rumour has it that the SKDC Cabinet is about to be reshuffled because, allegedly, Cllr Helen Goral (Con) has taken a job which will not allow her the time to undertake her cabinet duties. No formal announcement has been made by SKDC on the matter.

Companies Committee

The main item on the agenda was a proposed fresh approach to Housing Delivery. The Council proposes to find a third-party partner, probably either a developer or a housing association, to assist in identifying the land, resources and expertise necessary to deliver some of the housing needed across the District.

For the record, this is not the same as Gravitas Housing Ltd which is a company set up by SKDC to ‘disrupt the market’ by delivering some of the housing needed across the District. Since being incorporated in January 2017, Gravitas has completed one project which is 25 dwellings on Wherry’s Lane in Bourne.

Nor is the new approach going to replace the SKDC programme for building council houses which regularly fails to meet the target of building 100 houses each year.

The committee also discussed the ‘progress’ of the Council’s flagship economic development company InvestSK. It was revealed that the budget for InvestSK is to be slashed from £1.3m down to 800k next year and further still in the years come. This will mean InvestSK will need to focus on its fundamental role of driving economic growth and inward investment while some of its other activities such as arts and markets will be taken back in-house by SKDC.

Full Council

The January meeting of SKDC Full Council will have a busy agenda because several motions have been carried over from the November meeting when it was decreed that councillors weren’t allowed to discuss anything political at their council meeting for reasons of ‘purdah’.

I have submitted a motion calling on SKDC to work with charitable organisations to put textile recycling banks around the district. This has previously been discussed by the Environment OSC which voted by a narrow margin to reject the idea.

The Full Council is also expected to approve the appointment of Karen Bradford as its new Chief Executive. Karen was formally CEO of Gedling BC and Deputy CEO of North Kesteven DC.

Rural and Communities OSC

Tomorrow’s scrutiny meeting will discuss the Council’s ‘Customer Engagement Strategy’. The paperwork includes lots of management speak and jargon but it basically argues that most people these days can use a computer and/or a telephone and that meeting people face-to-face is an expensive and outdated form of communication.

It is proposed that the customer access points at Market Deeping and Stamford should be closed and replaced with interactive screens.

The OSC will also discuss the council’s policy on debt collection and specifically how SKDC might reduce the use of bailiffs. It seems that SKDC uses bailiffs 40 times a week and one can only imagine how much distress this causes to people who are already suffering financial hardship. The conversation will discuss the Stop The Knock campaign which is promoted by the Money Advice Trust.

Budget OSC

I attended the budget meeting yesterday and I aim to write a separate report on it which I hope to put onto this blog before too long.

As ever, if you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

“Heroes? We were just doing our job!”

On my regular journey from the Deepings to my parents’ home in Norfolk, I pass a brown tourist sign indicating the ‘Fenland Aviation Museum‘. For over a decade I have been meaning to visit and on a recent rainy Saturday afternoon I finally visited with my sixteen year-old daughter.

On arrival it is clear that this small museum is not in the same league as the IWM at Duxford. The museum is set back from the road behind a pet-shop and various other small independent retail outlets.

A shingle track full of puddles leads to the entrance gate where the suggested donations are listed on a laminated card. The museum consists of a few modular buildings behind a grassed area probably not much bigger than a badminton court and crowded with aircraft in various stages of reconstruction. These include a Lighting T5 training jet and the fuselage of a recently donated spitfire awaiting the reattachment of its wings, somewhat reminiscent of a half-finished Air-Fix kit.

From the outside, I was not entirely convinced the museum was open as I gently pushed the PVC door but, sure enough, a volunteer named Steve was at the desk awaiting visitors. At almost 11am he was delighted to welcome us as the first visitors of the day. He briefly explained the layout of the museum and called across to another volunteer, Henry, who he said would be pleased to answer any questions.

The museum has a wide range of exhibits from many periods of aviation history including models of early airships through to the cockpit of a jumbo jet and memorabilia from the first gulf war. However, the raison d’etre appears to be a place to show the findings of many archaeological digs which have recovered parts of aeroplanes which crash-landed in and around fens during the Second World War.

Henry began our introduction by showing us an illuminated map of various crash sites which had been excavated, and then pointed to two engines which had been recovered from the same plane. The first was smashed and damaged almost beyond recognition while the second had been partially restored. Further into the museum were many similar examples of smashed propeller, landing gear and other scrap metal illustrating Fenland’s aviation heritage.

Henry followed us to the 1950s training simulator, the jumbo jet cockpit and the helicopter engine commenting with a zeal to match any aviation enthusiast.

We then came to a short passage connecting two of the buildings which told the stories of some of the aircraft and airmen who had served during the Second World War. Henry pointed to a panel which told the story of a Halifax bomber which had been shot down over Holland in December 1944. The panel has details of all the six crew but points out that, sadly, only the navigator had survived.

“There was fuel all through inside of the aircraft”, said Henry, “and so the pilot gave the instruction to bail out. I removed a metal door from hatch from beside me and dropped it through the hole. I then stepped through and followed it out.  The plane crashed into the countryside and I looked around but I couldn’t see any other parachutes. It was only me. I had no control over the parachute and the wind swept me over the river, which was the border, and so I landed in Germany.”

“How old were you?” I asked.

“Then? I was 21. Now, I’m 96.”

Henry was ‘on the run’ for six days trying to stay out of sight and surviving by drinking water from puddles and cattle-troughs. Eventually, just before Christmas he found himself walking, exhausted, down a main road. He heard the click of a rifle bolt and a voice shout “Halt, Wer Da?” and he knew he had been captured.

The panel in the museum explains that while Henry was a POW (Prisoner of War) for ‘only’ a few months, they were certainly the worst few months to be in that position with the German armies retreating from the advancing allied troops as the war neared its end. Henry was among the POWs forced to take part in the ‘Death March’ of 227km over 21 days and nights from Bankau Stalag Luft VII to Goldberg during horrendous weather with very little food and virtually no medical care. This was followed by three days travelling by rail, standing with 65 other men in a cattle truck.

As we stood at the centre of this small but well-cared-for museum, Henry told us that people refer to this corridor as ‘the hall of heroes’ but adds “We didn’t consider ourselves heroes, we were just doing our job”.

My daughter and I made our way round the rest of the museum exhibits which include a helicopter engine, propaganda posters from World War 1 and examples of ordnance of various shapes and sizes. Before we left, Henry directed us to an exhibition piece beneath a swastika flag. It has details, in original German and also translated into English, of a German attack on a Halifax bomber. In fact it was the attack which brought down Henry and his companions on that fateful night in 1944. Henry explained “I researched the raid in the Bundes-archive and I know how many rounds of ammunition were used, the name of the pilot and the name of the gunner. I don’t have any ill-feeling towards them. They were doing their jobs just the same as we were”.

Henry is the same age as the Queen. At the outbreak of the war he was the same age as my daughter is now. As a young man he put himself in harm’s way in defence of our country. What an unexpected privilege to meet an aviation enthusiast with such a story to tell.

Henry Wagner, sole survivor of the crew of a Halifax bomber shot down over Holland in 1944,

The Fenland Aviation Museum can be found at Old Lynn Rd, Wisbech PE14 7DA is normally open, during the season, on Saturdays (10-5), Sundays (10-4) and Wednesday afternoons (1-4). For more information phone 01845 461771. NB. The museum is usually closed between November and Easter.

Finally, the site for Deepings’ new Leisure Centre has been announced!

South Kesteven District Council has unveiled the exisiting playing fields at Deepings School as the preferred site for a new leisure centre. The site is already the home of Deepings Rugby Club, Deeping United FC, the Deepings Rotary 10k and is used for a number of other competitive sports activities. In just two years time, it might also be home to a brand new swimming pool, all weather pitches and everything else one might expect of a modern ‘wet and dry’ leisure centre.

Deepings School Fields
Sunset over the Deepings School Fields.

As you may have read, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) announced in October 2017, and several times since then, that SKDC is planning to build a new Leisure Centre for the Deepings. This will replace the existing Leisure Centre which is well passed its sell by date and is literally falling apart at the seams with water often literally leaking through the roof above the pool area after heavy rainfall.

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