Report to Market Deeping Town Council – April 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 10th April 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, the Deepings’ ONLY Independent District Councillor.

This is clearly the last report from the 2015-2019 Council term. I have really enjoyed the privilege of serving the residents of Market and West Deeping and obviously I hope I get the opportunity to serve for another four years.

Congratulations to the Councillors who have stood for re-election to the Town Council and have been returned unopposed.

Special thanks to former Mayor, Cllr Roy Stephenson, for his loyal service to Market Deeping Town Council over more than two decades. I hope he enjoys a long and happy retirement with his wife, Sue.

Meetings Attended

I have attended only one formal Council meeting during the last month.          

02/04/2019   Development Management Committee

The planning committee discussed a number of applications including an estate of 46 dwellings in Grantham. While it is appreciated that housing is needed, the committee decided that the design of the site was not thought through properly and it was rejected for this reason.

Later in the meeting the committee heard a cheeky application for a ‘garage’ which, at 4.3m high, would have been bigger than a bungalow. It was very close to a park, a river and a listed building. I am pleased to say the Committee refused the application.

01/04/2019 Friends of Mill Field

At the request of the Friends of Mill Field I organised a meeting with Senior Officers and Planners at SKDC. The purpose of the meeting was to compare notes of the current situation regarding Mill Field including the Village Green Inquiry, the status of the emerging Local Plan, the planning application recently submitted by LCC. It was also an opportunity to ensure staff at SKDC are aware of the history of the Mill Field and the significant local opposition to developing the site.

Mill Field, Market Deeping

One of the interesting points to emerge from the meeting was that the Assistant Director for Growth confirmed there are currently no discussions between SKDC and LCC regarding potential use of the Mill Field site for the proposed new Leisure Centre, i.e. it is intended the Leisure Centre will be somewhere else. This was welcome news to the FoMF delegation.

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

See you next month (I hope!),

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – March 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 13th March 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, the Deepings’ only Independent District Councillor.

Meetings Attended

I have attended sixformal meetings during the last month.

25/02/2019   EmploymentCommittee

Thismeeting was convened in response to a question I asked at January’s FullCouncil regarding whether or not a Council’s Chief Executive had properly declared all his relevant business interests. Most of the meeting was held in secret but the Council subsequently issued the following statement: Continue reading

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – February 2019

Since my last monthly report, I have attended the following formal SKDC meetings as well as some other less formal meetings and community events:

10/01/2019    Budget- Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee  

This meeting was the first opportunity to analyse the forthcoming Council budget for 2019/20.  The meeting was rather chaotic as Councillors were invited to ask questions and make comments on a report and appendices totalling 53 pages.  There was no deliberate sub-division of topics and consequently the comments were made in a scatter-gun manner and few, if any, definitive recommendations resulted.

15/01/2019    Development Management Committee

This was a relatively short meeting (two hours) which considered three applications:

  • Zone 9,Elsea Park, Bourne.- This was the third time that this application had been discussed and considered by the Committee. On the first occasion it was deferred and the second occasion Councillors voted against Officers’ recommendations and so it had to be reconsidered after a ‘cooling off’ period.  This time round the application was approved with 5 votes in favour, 2 against and 4 abstention.  On a positive note, it has been agreed that future applications of this type will be referred to the Council’s recently appointed Design Officer in order to avoid similar half-hearted planning approvals.
  • Frognall– After considerable debate, a large house extension was approved opposite the former Rose PH.
  • Stowe Road, Langtoft – Outline approval for up to 35 dwellings subject to agreement of conditions including agreeing a sewerage plan with Anglian Water.

22/01/2019    Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee

As regular readers might know, I have a 100% record of attendance at meetings since August 2015. On receipt of the very thin agenda for the Environment Committee I did wonder whether it was really worth making the 60 miles round trip to Grantham to discuss virtually nothing of consequence. My sense of duty got the better of me and when the meeting closed after just an hour I had only confirmed that the whole exercise had been a waste of time.

There were no published papers for the meeting other than the printed agenda and notes of the previous meeting. No Cabinet Members were present at the meeting. The Chair failed to explain why the decisions of the previous meeting had not been acted upon, not even the draft ‘Street Lighting Policy’ which has been kicking around for more than a year.  We listened to a presentation from an Officer regarding a government consultation on Waste and Recycling.  A slide entitled “Key Milestones” mentioned a “Transposition of the Circular Economy Package” is due to be delivered before the end of 2019. I asked what this means but, sadly, nobody knew the answer.

Pointless

31/01/2019    Council

Full Council agenda started off with questions from members of the public. The first of these concerned ongoing problems with a heating system which was installed three years ago at the Riverside Housing Complex in Grantham which has never worked properly.  In response, the Conservative Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Nick Neilson (Con) and the Deputy Leader, Cllr Kelham Cooke (Con) both apologised for the errors made since 2016 and promised to investigate and find a resolution.

Later in the meeting, I asked a question about the business relationship between a senior officer of the Council and a private consultancy which has been paid almost £60,000 over 18 months for various staff recruitment exercises. This question has been referred to a future meeting of the Council’s Employment Committee.

05/02/2019    DevelopmentManagement Committee

A specially extended meeting began at 10am and continued until 5.30pm. Despite the long day, this was undoubtedly the most interesting and entertaining planning committee I have attended to date.

In the morning, Councillors discussed an application for a Designer Outlet Village next to the A1 at Gonerby Moor. This multi-million pound project is expected to retain 700 jobs and to create 1,200 new jobs in the District as well as attracting literally millions of visitors to the District. Nevertheless, three of the Tories voted against the scheme including Cllr Jacky Smith (Con) who expressed concern about the proposed creation of a ‘training academy’ even though she is Cabinet Member for Skills and Wellbeing and the centre has the support of Grantham college.

The afternoon started with an application for a 6m high statue of Baroness Thatcher. I had personally ‘called-in’ this application because it is so significant and controversial. In the event it was approved unanimously by the Committee (including me). This decision attracted international media attention including from the Guardian and the Times.

For more information read my blog-post “The statue that no-one else wants”.

13/02/2019    Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee

This morning’s meeting revealed that the costs of the SKDC Senior Management Restructure have risen by over £150,000 since the last meeting, mostly due to unexpected redundancy payments and other staffing costs.

The meeting also considered the performance monitoring issues. I have been asking for this issue to be re-considered since it was last presented back in June last year.  At that time “it was noted that the report was based on the previous Corporate Strategy.  A New Corporate Strategy was now in place and would have more appropriate KPIs.”  I was most surprised that this morning, eight months on, we were presented with the old KPIs measured up to September. Therefore rather than receiving new up-to-date KPIs we were given old KPIs which were already six months out of date.

We then went on to discuss financial monitoring.  During last year’s budget setting process I was among a small group of Councillors who regarded many of the ‘ambitious’ budget predictions as pie-in-the-sky forecasts. I am sorry, though not surprised, to report that we were right and we were told this morning that the following projected savings have not been achieved:

Will anyone be held to account for making ridiculous savings targets and then missing them completely? I very much doubt it. Besides which, the budget has been altered several times since last year to accommodate millions of pounds of unplanned expenditure including land purchases and sudden redundancy payments.

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – January 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 9th January, 2019
(from SKDC Councillor ASHLEY BAXTER)

Happy New Year to all Councillors, Council Staff
 and residents of Market Deeping and West Deeping!

Friends of Mill Field

After more than two years of hard work and preparation, the Friends of Mill Field have this week arrived at the crucial Public Inquiry stage of their Village Green application. The result will have a massive impact not just the land in question but also on the whole town of Market Deeping.

Yesterday (Tuesday 8th) the enquiry began at the Eventus Centre and was attended by well over 50 members of the public during the day. Today (Wednesday 9th) the enquiry continues at Eventus during the day and at Open Door Church during the evening.

All members of the public and press are welcome to attend any session of the inquiry. I intend to attend the evening session as an observer (and as an Open Door volunteer) and, consequently, I ask Market Deeping Town Council to accept my apologies for not attending the Full Council meeting this evening.

Members’ Ward Budget

Last month I reported that I had allocated £300 of Council Taxpayers’ money to the Deepings United School Rock Band to assist aspiring musicians of primary school age. This month, I am pleased to report that a contribution of £250 has been allocated to the Deepings School Library to assist in the creation of a special area to encourage boys to read more. Research has proven that boys, of every age, no matter the nature of the literature before them, typically read less thoroughly than girls. I hope that the SKDC grant will encourage boys at Deepings School to read, become more educated, more thoughtful, more courteous, more productive and consequently better adults, better husbands and better fathers. However, I’m not sure how much impact £250 will have on this aspiration. In the interests of equal opportunities, all the library resources connected to the project will be available to girls as well as boys.

Meetings Attended

Since my last monthly report, I have attended only one formal SKDC meeting and then, only as an observer. Until November I would have expected to have attended the Council’s ‘Shareholder Committee’.

20/12/2018   Cabinet

The meeting included proposals for an invest-to-save fund which would give the Cabinet Member for Finance some flexibility to invest in projects and schemes expected to give a healthy return. I welcome what seems to be a good idea but I did ask whether there would be any checks and balances and/or preferred payback period. The Cabinet responded by saying that all decisions would need approval by the Section 151 Officer whose has a statutory duty to ensure the Council takes proper care of our money and assets.

Later in the meeting I asked questions about street lighting, the Deepings leisure centre and the imminent acquisition of land at Stamford by SKDC.

08/01/2019 Shareholder Committee

I was previously the Independent representative on the Shareholder Committee and had attended every meeting since its inception almost three years ago. Sadly, due to another defection of an Independent to the Conservatives, I have been removed from the Shareholder Committee in order to ensure membership of Committees across the Council accurately accords with the balance of political groups at SKDC. Healthy democracy needs healthy opposition and the increasing domination of the majority party (in our case Conservatives) does nothing to improve decision-making or scrutiny.

Research Assistant

On 4th December, the SKDC website advertised a job with a salary of £27,000. The deadline for applications was one week later. Five people applied for the job. One person was invited for interview after which he was offered the job which he started on 2nd January. It is my understanding that the successful applicant is currently an elected Conservative Councillor at Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – December 2018

Happy Christmas to all Councillors, Council Staff
 and residents of Market Deeping and West Deeping!

Meetings Attended

I have attended three formal meetings during the last month.

20/11/2018        Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Street Lighting

This meeting included yet another discussion of the Council’s Street Lighting Policy and whether or notthe District Council should be committed to keeping its street-lights on during the hours of darkness (unlike the Conservative County Council who turn many of their lights off).

Since the last meeting, the Committee has held two workshops on this issue which were not open to the public. I attended the first but was unable to attend the second. After a protracted e-mail exchange I managed to obtain the notes from the workshops and, more importantly, establish that they should be in the public domain. This is a significant victory as I have been challenging the practice of Members’ workshops for many months. On reading the notes of the second workshop I was quietly pleased that I hadn’t curtailed a sojourn in Bournmouth in order to attend as the meeting had been attended by only three Councillors and lasted less than 25 minutes.

A longer debate about street-lighting took place at the OSC meeting and concluded with arecommendation that a) Cabinet adopt the Street Lighting Policy which I drafted and was approved by the Environment OSC earlier in the year; and b) the Council invests a significant amount of money into a capital programme to replace existing street-lamps with more efficient LED equivalents.

The issue will now be presented to the Cabinet who will hopefully this time be able to act on the recommendations rather than referring it back to the Committee as they did last time.

Recycling and Waste

The meeting listened to a presentation about the many issues affecting waste and recycling in South Kesteven which included some handy recycling tips and home-truths about the problems of contamination of recycling materials. The SKDC Food Waste trial has so far been very successful in reducing recycling contaminations for the small number of households covered by the pilot scheme (contamination down from about 30% to less than 10%).

The meeting also discussed the Lincolnshire Joint Waste Strategy. This document had been produced by the County and District Councils. A consultation had taken place regarding the strategy which affects literally everyone in Lincolnshire and 147 responses had been received, 6 of which were from District Councillors including myself.

22/11/2018          SKDC Full Council

On a more positive note, the Council celebrated the achievements of various communities across the District with presentation of the Best Kept Village Awards which included Market Deeping winning the ‘large settlement’ category.

Later in the meeting I asked when the Council Leader, Coun Matthew Lee (Con), was planning to report back to Councillors on the SK Economic Summit which took place at Grimsthorpe Castle in October at a cost of £14,736. He replied to say that he continued to talk about the summit at all sorts of meetings but didn’t say which ones. I also asked about progress towards the planned weekly Saturday market in Market Deeping.

The meeting concluded with a heated debate about whether or not major planning applications should be decided by the Development Management Committee or allowed to be ‘nodded through’ by Officer sat the discretion of the Chair. A motion was proposed by Cllr Phil Dilks (Lab) after a recent decision to approve an enormous 49-metre high cold storage centre was taken without reference to the Committee (unless you include an informal private meeting at which questions were limited). The Conservatives apparently think this is acceptable.

11/12/2018          Development Management Committee

The first hour’s discussed a part-heard application for detailed permission for 174 dwellings on the Elsea Park estate in Bourne. This time, I voted to refuse the scheme despite Officers’ recommendations that it be approved and the rest of the committee agreed with me.

There then followed a discussion of a house in Dyke where Officers recommended refusal. The Committee was evenly split and a decision only taken when the acting Chairman changed his casting vote.

Finally there was a discussion about a dog-training facility in the North of the District which was approved subject to some very tight conditions concerning hours of operation.

Friends of Mill Field

Regular readers will be aware that, around 18 months ago, residents of Market Deeping submitted a Village Green application concerning the fields adjacent to Mill Field Road, Market Deeping. This is the only remaining unmanaged and easily accessible open space in the town.

A consultation event at the Deepings school in June 2018 concerning the site attracted 547 responses of which over 90% were opposed to any development on the site. Despite this, and despite the ongoing legal process, Lincolnshire County Council has recently submitted a planning application for the site although it has not yet been validated by Officers.

The Public Inquiry concerning the Village Green application will take place on Tuesday January 8th and Wednesday 9th starting at 10am. There will be an evening session at the Open Door Centre opposite the Deepings School on Wednesday Jan 9th from 6pm – 8pm. All members of the public and press are welcome to attend any session of the inquiry.

Monitoring Officer

Last week Councillors were informed that the Solicitor to the Council, is leaving the Council after thirty years of service as an employee. Mrs Youles’ departure will be a great loss of experience, expertise and information to the Council. She was also the Council’s Monitoring Officer which is one of the three designated posts that all local authorities have a statutory duty to employ. The Monitoring Officer has the specific duty to ensure that the Council, its officers and its Elected Councillors maintain the highest standards of conduct in all they do.

Contracts of senior staff normally require a notice period of at least two or three months. Councillors have been offered no explanation of the reasons for the apparently sudden departure of the Monitoring Officer but the circumstances appear similar to the departure last year of the Council’s Section151 Officer which is another of the three statutory posts. On that occasion, it later transpired that the Officer was offered a ‘golden handshake’ of £141,000 to leave quickly and quietly. I have e-mailed the Chief Executive to ask if there will be a financial cost to the Council attached to the departure of the Monitoring Officer and, if so, how much.

Market Deeping Christmas Market

I was pleased to help with the annual Christmas Market which this year wasmanaged by a team of volunteers led by Cllr Virginia Moran ably assisted by the sterling efforts of the Clerk and the park-keepers. I understand that this year’s market was the first ever to cover its own cost which is obviously good news for Market Deeping tax-payers as well as all the people who enjoyed the market.

I was involved in organising the entertainment programme which consisted of many varied acts including rock bands, choirs and line-dancers. I am particularly grateful to Cllr Andy Pelling of DSJ and Phil Jones for acting as stage technicians and comperes throughout the day.

The first two acts of the day were the Deeping St James school band and the Deepings United Schools Choir. They were so impressive that I have decided to allocate £300 of my Councillor’s Ward Budget towards the equipment they need for community performances.

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Report to Market Deeping Town and West Deeping Parish Councils – November 2018

Before I say anything else, I wish congratulations to Sarah Lydford on her appointment as Market Deeping Town Clerk. I’m sure she will do a grand job.

I have attended threeformal meetings during the last month.

Development Management Committee, 16/10/2018

The agenda of the October planning committee included: a retrospective application for a gazebo in Uffington (Permission refused); creation of a autograss race-track in Hougham (Decision deferred); and the building of six dwellings on the site of the former Salvation Army Hall in Stamford (Permission granted).

Development Management Committee, 13/11/2018 Continue reading

Report to MDTC Full Council – October 2018

Report to MDTC Full Council 10th October 2018
(from SKDC Councillor ASHLEY BAXTER)

I have attended the following meetings during the last month.

18/09/2018         Development Management Committee

The meeting discussed applications including the following:

  • Nine dwellings on land Adjacent To Ivatt Close Bourne PE10 9TZ

I saved a tree! I actually did! This small development on the outskirts of Bourne required the removal of quite a few trees and shrubs. While examining the proposals I noted that there is one healthy ash tree in a corner of the site that faced the chop.

The Officer’s report stated “the trees on site are not considered to be of significant amenity value”. I pointed out that while they might not look like much to us, we might discover they have quite a lot of amenity value to the local birds, squirrel and hedgehog if only we could ask.

When the developer gave his evidence I asked if there was any chance of saving the tree as well as reinstating the ‘lapsed hedge’ which was also due to be replaced the feather-board fencing which is almost ubiquitous across new developments. To my surprise he agreed without argument. It makes me wonder if and why the Planning Officers hadn’t asked the same question. Either way, it was a good result and reminded me why I go to these meetings.

  • Seven single bedroom apartments at Norton Street Grantham NG31 6BY

This applicant keeps coming back to the committee with similar applications each slightly different to the previous presumably in the hope that his persistence will, sooner or later, pay off. I am pleased to say that this time it didn’t and the poky residential accommodation proposed between the gardens of back to back terraced houses was refused once again.

  • St Vincent’s House, Grantham

This was a notable for two reasons. Firstly, it was an application from a Councillor. Secondly the property hosted the control room for the historic ‘Dambusters’ raid by 617 squadron which changed the course of the Second World War. The application itself concerned potting sheds in the grounds and wasn’t very contentious.

27/09/2018         Council

This was attended by 38 of the 56 elected Councillors with 18 absent for one reason or another.

Only one member of the public attended and no members of the public had registered to ask any questions.

The Council decided to alter its budget for the year for two reasons: firstly in order to buy a piece of land; and secondly to establish a new company (an LLP) called ‘DeliverSK.

The Council discussed its relatively new system of Overview and Scrutiny Committees which most agreed is a ‘work in progress’ with room for improvement.

As part of Members’ questions I asked the Cabinet Member for Growth and Communications whether paying £140,000/annum for a consultant with no job description, written contract or responsibility for managing staff is good practice in procurement and good value for money. The Cabinet Member responded that she felt my repeated questions on the issue were boring and accused me of harbouring a personal vendetta.

There were two Motions. The first concerned the Council’s approach to modern slavery and was proposed by Cllr Phil Dilks (Lab), the motion was amended and then passed.  I proposed the second which argued for more transparency of Members Workshops and Briefings which was defeated.

02/10/2018         Shareholder Committee

 

As usual, most of the proceedings of the Shareholder committee took place ‘in camera’ and so I am not allowed to tell you what happened. Take my word for it, it wasn’t a very exciting meeting.

Two years ago, when the Committee was first set up, a lot of time was spent deciding what would be the best name for the company and Gravitas Housing Ltd was chosen. This decision has now been overturned!

 

As ever, if you need more information on anything within this report, please do get in touch.

Finally, may I take this opportunity to record my thanks to the outgoing Town Clerk, Mrs Candace Brent, and to her husband for all they have done for the Deepings over the years. I wish them both all the very best for the future.

 

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Market and West Deeping Ward

Report to MDTC Full Council – September 2018

Report to MDTC Full Council 12th September 2018
(from SKDC Cllr Ashley Baxter)

The summer months are traditionally less busy for Councillors but this month’s report is as busy as ever with lots of news from SKDC.

SKDC Full Council – 26th July 2018
Council ,26/07/2018

The Council discussed the following issues: Continue reading

July 2018 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

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.

Town Centre

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.

Saturday Market

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. Continue reading

June 2018 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Here is a summary of what’s been happening on the District (and County) Council sphere since last month. I hope you find some of it engaging…

Mill Field #1 – Ambush!Mill Field photo

Despite the ongoing legal process concerning the community-led Village Green application for Mill Field, the County Council have held a so-called ‘community listening event’ to consult residents about their plans to sell off our land for housing.

The consultation took place on 17th May but the publicity was only sent out a week beforehand to ensure it missed the printed media. Indeed, the County Councillor for ‘Deepings West’ didn’t mention the event when she gave a verbal report to Market Deeping Town Council meeting on 9th May. Nevertheless, the Friends of Mill Field were organised enough to deliver around 1,000 leaflets to ensure at least some local people were aware the event was taking place.

On the morning of the consultation event I was interviewed about Mill Field on the BBC Radio Lincolnshire breakfast show opposite Cllr Martin Hill who tried to explain why the County wants to sell the field for housing. Meanwhile, I explained that the field is much valued by our community as an informal recreation area and it not allocated for development in the forthcoming local plan.

On the evening of the consultation, almost 200 residents attended the Deepings school to express their views about building on the Mill Field site (so many that we couldn’t easily fit them together, hence the stitched together photo). At the recent Annual Town Meeting, The Town Council agreed to publicly support the Friends of Mill Field campaign so it was good to see Town Cllrs Adam Brookes, Virginia Moran and Roy Stephenson were supporting their community at this event.

Anyone who missed the consultation event but wishes to express a view about Mill Field can do so via an online survey on the County Council website until 17th June.

Mill Field #2 – Public Inquiry

The Village Green application submitted to Lincolnshire County Council in June last year has now been reviewed by an independent inspector who has decided that a public inquiry is necessary to determine the case. It will be held in the Deepings later this year and more information can be found at the Friends of Mill Field website.

Footpath Inquiry

During the construction of Phase 3 of the Persimmon Estate behind Tesco, a public footpath was re-routed and relaid in a very shoddy fashion. There is a pinchpoint behind tesco where the County Council have allowed the developer to leave a gap which is very narrow with an adverse camber which is dangerous to pedestrians and almost inaccessible to wheel chairs and cyclists. This should be an important route for parents and children attending the two adjacent local primary schools but neither the developer nor the County Council have given this any thought or attention.

As Cllr Adam Brookes has helpfully highlighted on his website, the Planning Inspectorate will be holding a public inquiry into the re-routing of Footpath 4 on 21st August. Everyone who has made an objection or representation and any one who wishes to give evidence at the Inquiry must ensure their statement of case is received by the Secretary of State before 26th June.

Local Plan Consultation

The final draft SKDC Local Plan will be released during June. 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 and strongly encourage all residents to look at the plans for the Deepings and respond to the consultation.

Growth overview and scrutiny committee – Special Meeting – 29th May

This meeting was the result of a ‘call-in’ procedure. These are quite rare because they only happen in circumstances where Members of the Council believe a decision has been taken without due process or proper scrutiny.

I led this particular call-in because I noticed the Cabinet had taken a decision to turn its economic development department (aka Invest SK) into a Company Limited by Guarantee. This could mean almost £1million of ratepayers money being put at arms length from the Council with less accountability and transparency.

During the special meeting it was revealed that the decision had been made urgently because a recent staff promotion at SKDC has left a vacancy at Invest SK and the £200.000pa contract between InvestSK and Opportunity Peterborough is due to expire at the end of July. In response to my questions, the Cabinet also admitted that there is not yet any business plan, articles of association or clarity of working arrangements for the new company.

Development Management Meeting – 29th May 2018

A relatively brief planning meeting (1.5 hours) with a relatively light agenda including discussion of a 106 agreement in Grantham, a large bungalow in Stamford and a house extension in Grantham.

SKDC Annual Meeting of the Council – 24th May

Before the meeting, the Councillors had their annual group photograph. This was organised with far more pomp than in recent years.  A professional photographer with lights and ladders welcomed us into the guildhall where we were arranged on the stage between two specially purchased flags.

The printed documents for the meeting ran to over 350 pages because they included the draft Local Plan in its entirety and printed agenda, minutes and appendices of every Cabinet meeting since February. If  each page cost 2p for printing and paper then the likely cost of producing all the agenda packs would have been £500.

The Annual Meeting began with the unanimous election of Cllr George Chivers (Con – Belmont Ward) as Chairman, who is Scottish and ex-RAF, and tributes to the retiring Chairman Cllr Bob Sampson (Ind – Loveden Heath).

The first half of the agenda consisted mainly of Council bureaucratic announcements concerning appointments and meetings. The Council then formally approved the consultation draft of the Local Plan and glossy corporate strategy.

The meeting concluded with a debate on the motion I  submitted calling for a Community Governance Review in order to establish whether Grantham should have an independent Town Council. My argument was based on my experience on the planning committee where applications in the smaller towns and villages usually attract a co-ordinated response from Town and Parish Council but there is no such response on behalf of Grantham residents. Furthermore, there are many decisions about Grantham made by Councillors from across the District which would be better made by those who know and represent the town. Some Grantham Councillors argued that there was insufficient political appetite for a Council and after some debate the motion was effectively defeated by an amendment from Cllr Ray Wootten saying the Council should only consider a Town Council if SKDC was replaced by a unitary authority or if a community petition obliged the council to consult on the issue.

Earlier in the meeting I had raised the question of holding occasional meetings outside Grantham. One of the Cabinet members suggested the recent Cabinet meeting in Bourne had been a waste of money because of the cost of travel from Grantham and because only seven members of the public attended. Ironically, as he said these words in the Council chamber in Grantham, there were only seven people in the public gallery, some of whom I suspect were Council officers. Happily, the Leader and other Councillors were more positive and supportive and it has since been confirmed that some future meetings will be held elsewhere including:

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 is an excellent opportunity to see democracy in action.

Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee IN BOURNE! – 13th June, 10am.

The agenda of this meeting consists of a Quarterly Performance Monitoring Report and a Review of the Committee’s workplan. It will also set a date for a Members’ workshop on Car Parking which is likely to be held in secret. This is not the most exciting agenda but the meeting begins with an opportunity for members of the public to make comments about the Council’s plans for growth in housing, retail and economy.

As ever, if you need any further information please get in touch.

 

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Independent District Councillor
for Market and West Deeping
07799 077090
a.baxter@southkesteven.gov.uk