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

May 2018 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Arguably the most important thing to mention this month is the residents’ survey which SKDC has launched to ask what local people think of the services it provides. Please click the link and fill it in.

Here’s some of what I’ve been up to since last month…

Shareholder Committee – 17th April 2018

This meeting concerned the Council controlled company ‘Gravitas Housing Ltd’. There was a very short published agenda which was expected to take place mostly ‘in camera’ due to the commercially sensitive nature of the debate. However, under ‘matters arising from the minutes’ I asked why the agenda had no mention of either the Shareholders’ Workshop which had been held behind closed doors in January, nor a revised business plan, nor any details of the potential for Gravitas to build new Council housing which was an idea proposed at a Cabinet meeting in January. I was pleased to hear some Conservative colleagues echo my concerns and Officers promised that these issues would be properly addressed at a future meeting.

Deepings Litter Pick – 22nd April 2018

The community litter pick had been postponed due to inclement weather. About 25 people turned out to tidy up the town and village with litter picking equipment supplied by District, Town and Parish Councils and doughnuts supplied by the Old Bakery in Deeping St James.

Environment overview and scrutiny committee – 24 April 2018

Finally this committee got round to discussing street lighting in public. After almost a year of meetings, it was decided to gradually replace the bulbs with LED equivalents. A Street Lighting Policy I had redrafted was agreed and recommended to the SKDC Cabinet for adoption. The policy includes a commitment to keeping the lights on during the hours of darkness which is a significant improvement on an early report by the committee Chair which offered four options, all of which recommended turning the lights off around midnight.

Representatives of the county council attended the meeting to give a presentation about the draft Lincolnshire waste and recycling strategy. Many questions were asked about the future of the green and silver bin system

At my request, the committee also discussed briefly the grounds maintenance contract which is due to end in February 2019. I suggested that new contract arrangements should be more flexible to enable partnership working with town and parish councils and also inform variations to allow pilot schemes for wildflower areas, fire diversity et cetera. It was agreed that the grounds maintenance contract arrangement should be discussed in more detail at a future meeting. The separate but related issue of biodiversity will also be added to the work plan for the scrutiny group.

Development Management Meeting – 1st May 2018

Planning applications including the following:

  • An application for a 30-place pre-school nursery on Swallow Hill in Thurlby was approved
  • A residential development of 11 bungalows on the outskirts of Grantham was refused, partly because there was no attempt to provide any social housing or to comply with the Council’s policy on social housing. The application was interesting because the site was defined as being in ‘open countryside’ even though it was sandwiched between a Volvo garage, a site approved for a large retail village, the A1 and Grantham itself.
  • Approval was granted for six dwellings on the edge of Castle Bytham.

Full Council – 24th May 2018

The annual meeting of SKDC Full Council is scheduled for May 24th. I have submitted a motion calling for a Community Governance Review in order to establish whether Grantham should have an independent Town Council.

Annual Town and Parish Meetings

I was pleased to attend the Annual Town Meeting of Market Deeping on May 1st and the Annual Parish Meeting of Deeping St James on May 8th. On Monday 14th May, I intend to attend the Annual Parish Meeting for West Deeping.

 

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

 

 

 

April 2018 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

A relatively short report this month as there are 84 days between the last SKDC Full Council meeting and the next which is scheduled for May 24th.

Secret Street Lighting Workshop – 27th March 2018

Another meeting took place, behind closed doors, to consider various options for reducing energy used by street-lighting. I was unable to attend this meeting due to family commitments and I am not permitted to share details of what was discussed during the workshop. The recommendations will be presented to the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee scheduled for Tuesday, 24th April where hopefully the issue will be resolved positively after almost a year of procrastination.

Development Management Meeting – 3rd April 2018

A six hour meeting discussing a variety of planning applications including the following:

  • Outline permission was granted for 145 homes in Deeping St James. This is significantly more than proposed for the same area in the earlier Site Allocations documents but, even with the higher number, it appears possible to achieve a lower density of housing than on the neighbouring Burchnall Close and Campion Drive area.
    It was encouraging to see residents from the Deepings travelling up to Grantham to express their opinions to the Development Committee in person. These people included representatives of the Neighbourhood Planning group, the Deeping St James Parish Council as well as Town Councillor, Adam Brookes. All spoke in favour of cycle ways and green walks on the site, as did I, and I was pleased that a condition was imposed to ensure a proper pedestrian and cycle way will be installed across the Northern and Eastern boundaries of the site.
  • A disabled access ramp for Stamford Methodist church was deferred as it was believed by some councillors that a more appropriate design could be achieved.
  • There was much discussion about a retrospective planning application and listed building consent for an extension to a 19th century dovecote in Old Somerby. The applicant was Conservative Councillor Peter Stephens who had previously made a similar application but for some reason it had been built 2m higher than originally planned, out of different materials and with a different configuration of doors and windows. This infringement had come to the notice of the council’s enforcement officers hence the retrospective application.
  • An eco-house in Castle Bytham was discussed for a second time because the original planning report had neglected to mention that the site was in a Conservation Area. I had asked about the Conservation Area during the meeting and I sent a follow-up e-mail after the meeting which exposed the error.

Combined Overview and Scrutiny Meeting – 9th April 2018

This meeting was convened for the purpose of discussing the Council’s new Corporate Strategy.
http://moderngov.southkesteven.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=649&MId=3586

Friends of Mill Field

Cllr Neilson and I attended a meeting with Cllr Mike King (Con), SKDC Portfolio holder for Planning, alongside members of the ‘Friends of Millfield’ campaign group. I found the meeting mildly encouraging in terms of the District Council’s ongoing neutral position, although it is clear that this site will probably remain contentious for many years to come. It seems clear that the County Council want to sell it for housing against the wishes of local people who regularly use the site for recreation purposes.

SK Today and Media Training

On receiving the recent copy of SK Today I was very disappointed that there was barely a mention of events or activities, past, present or planned, in the Deepings. I wrote an e-mail and a blogpost about the ongoing and lamentable under-reporting of the Deepings by the SKDC Communications Team. This led to a rather frosty meeting with the Conservative Portfolio Holder for Communications and Engagement along with a Senior Member of the Communications Team.  The message I gleaned from the meeting was that if we want SKDC to promote events in the Deepings then people, particularly Deepings councillors, need to prepare ‘oven-ready’ stories for wider distribution and publication in SK Today, Parish Update and the weekly SK staff bulletin ‘Evolve’. After the meeting I sent an article about the DSJ Parish Meeting and ‘Making A Difference’ awards which I am pleased to say has attracted coverage in ‘Evolve’. Consequently I am hopeful that we will see more coverage of the Deepings, as well as the other smaller towns in future SK publications.

South Kesteven On Tour

Following my motion to the Full Council in November encouraging the council to organise some of its committee meetings in the smaller towns, I am pleased to report that the next Cabinet meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday 12th April at Bourne Corn Exchange. This will likely be followed by some other meetings when the Grantham offices undergo refurbishment later in the year.

The cabinet meeting will discuss a new resident engagement strategy which will set out how the Council hopes to engage with its housing tenants.

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

March 2018 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

School Solar Panels
The Fens Wind-power Co-operative which owned two of the turbines at Deeping St Nicholas is being wound up and is making a significant donation to environmental the local community. 57k has been allocated to install solar panels at local schools. I am pleased to report that, thanks to my intervention, two of Market Deeping’s schools are likely to benefit from the scheme. Furthermore, a fuel poverty advice programme which is planned for South Holland should also be available to Deepings residents. I am awaiting further details of how this will operate.

wind girls

Environment Overview and Scrutiny Group – 20rd February 2018
A dull meeting with the supposed aim of scrutinising the Council’s performance on a range of environmental issues including air quality, litter and trade waste. The Tories, as usual, asked almost no questions during the meeting. Cllr Craft (Ind, ex-Tory) and I asked quite a few questions.

Secret Street Lighting Workshop – 20th February 2018
A meeting took place, behind closed doors, to consider various options for reducing energy used by streetlighting including the option of switching them off. I am not permitted to say exactly what was discussed during the workshop but I can tell you: a) personally I have argued, at every opportunity, against turning off SKDC streetlights; and b) the principal outcome of the workshop was to agree to hold another secret workshop on 27th March.

SKDC Full Council (Budget) Meeting – 1st March 2018
Only 30 out of 56 Councillors braved the snowy weather to attend the Council’s annual budget meeting.

Last year, the Council agreed its annual budget unanimously although the subsequent leadership coup led to various significant amendments. This year’s budget was far more contentious with various balancing figures seemingly plucked from thin air. These include: a £30k reduction in consultancy costs to be achieved by consolidating the consultancy budgets from around the various council departments; £345k in unspecified reductions in corporate costs; £350k proposed expenditure on a ‘leisure and heritage strategy’.

There was a good deal of discontent with the proposed budget among some of the Tory ranks and also among the opposition. There were some ambitious ideas including an extension of the Big Clean project and an in-house enforcement team for enviro-crime (litter, graffiti etc) which I applauded but in order that the budget should not be passed through on the nod, I presented three costed amendments which would have reduced the overall budget requirement by £400k:
• A modest increase in car park charges in Stamford and Grantham (of less than 25% and less than 20p/hour). This would have raised revenue of £182k/annum. In contrast, the Tory budget suggests an increased revenue for car park charges of £250k/annum merely by stricter enforcement, new technology (with a significant capital cost for installation), better promotion and without increasing charges.
• Adjustments to the some of the figures, especially the more outlandish proposals (e.g. combining the new ‘innovation team’ (£97k) with the new ‘transformation team’ (£120k) and reducing the budget by 20%)
• Protecting the existing dedicated 50k reserve for Hardship and Welfare rather than allowing it to be absorbed into the general pot.

During the debate, some cabinet members tried to divert attention from the real arguments by falsely accusing me of breaches of protocol: firstly, the Leader, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con), protested that I was planning to raise 9 separate amendments (the paperwork in front of him showed clearly there were only 3); secondly, Cllr Lee suggested that I hadn’t liaised with council officers before presenting the amendments (I most certainly had liaised with officers); thirdly Cllr Adam Stokes (Con), Portfolio Holder for Finance, complained that I hadn’t shared my amendments prior to the meeting (I had e-mailed the most of the content to him a week before the meeting and received no response).

Unsurprisingly, my three amendments were defeated, however the nebulous and over-optimistic budget has at least been publicly challenged.

Cllr Morgan (Lab) also submitted an amendment to ask for a measly £1,000 contribution to the legal costs of the ongoing Grantham Hospital campaign. This debate prompted a succession of Tories to proclaim how much they supported this important campaign before they all voted against the amendment.

Later, the meeting agreed unanimously to make permanent the appointment of the hitherto interim Chief Executive, Aidan Rave. It also agreed to hold a consultation on the enlargement of Corby Glen Parish Council from 7 to 9 Councillors.

I travelled to and from the meeting, as I often do, with Cllr Judy Stevens of DSJ. There are obvious advantages to lift-sharing not least reducing the cost of mileage claims to the Council Tax payers. The journey home took over two hours due to the inclement weather and included over thirty minutes stationary in the snow on the A1. North Kesteven DC was due to hold its equivalent budget meeting on the same day but decided to postpone due to the inclement weather. Unfortunately, the South Kesteven constitution does not allow Full Council meetings to be postponed.

Development Management Meeting – 6th March 2018
A relatively short (almost 2.5 hours) but interesting meeting of the planning committee discussed three planning applications.

The first was a sub-terranean eco-build in Castle Bytham. This had the support of the Parish Council but planning officers recommended refusal because the project would an ‘isolated home in the countryside’ and was not ‘innovative’. I am pleased to report that Councillors agreed the site was not ‘isolated’ (it is barely 50 yards from the parish hall!) and it is innovative. Consequently the Ctte voted contrary to officers’ recommendations and approved the dwelling.

The second application was for a new storey school building in the environs of St Wulfram’s Church in Grantham. This was passed by 8 votes to 6 proving again that every individual vote makes a difference.

The third application concerned a Section 106 agreement where, several years ago, a developer had agreed to contribute £127k to the costs of improving a junction with the A1. The developer argued that this work was no longer necessary and therefore the money was not required. The application was deferred to allow for further consultation with LCC Highways to take place.

Friends of Mill Field – Update
The campaign to register Mill Field as a Village Green continues. A dedicated webpage will soon be established to enable supporters to donate towards the ongoing legal costs.
Some of the group were also planning to meet Cllr Mike King (Con), SKDC Portfolio holder for Planning. This meeting was postponed due to the inclement weather.

Persimmon Estate
Despite a regular exchange of e-mails with the enforcement team at SKDC, no enforcement action has yet been taken in relation to the litany of unfinished works at the ‘Brambles’ estate behind Tesco. These include:
• Repairs to road surface on Godsey Lane
• Bringing Charter Avenue and other roads to an adoptable standard
• Non-compliant, even dangerous, footpath to the rear of Tesco
• Focal point and public open space
• Allotments to be handed over to Town Council

With regard to the allotments, I would suggest they are not fit for purpose. The allotments site is not secure leaving it vulnerable to vandalism, theft and other pests. Furthermore, the area has more tarmac than soil. A very disappointing response to a very well-intentioned idea. Incidentally, the Town Council has a duty under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 (c.36) to provide allotments if residents want them.

Market Deeping Town Centre
The Co-op store is due to close on 17th March, 2018. The premises will be occupied by Poundstretcher although I do not know exactly when.

New River Retail have assured me there are no plans to close the petrol filling station.

I had a meeting with an SKDC officer and Councillor Moran regarding SKDC aspirations for a Saturday market. It seems likely that businesses and other stakeholders will soon be consulted on proposals.

Auger car park

Here is an excerpt from SKDC Cabinet minutes from January 2005 when the Tories decided to sell off the council car park next to the Co-op store in Market Deeping Town Centre.

Forthcoming Events
West Deeping Village Hall is hosting a live theatre performance of “We are the Lions, Mr Manager” on Saturday 24th March.

That’s all for this report. 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

February 2018 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Happy Valentines Day to all Town Councillors and residents of Market Deeping, West Deeping and all the other Deepings. May you be blessed with an understanding and experience of true love!

Communities Overview and Scrutiny Group – 23rd January 2016
I attended this meeting as a ‘substitute; for Cllr Helen Powell and was thus entitled to contribute to the debate*. I pointed out that this was the only Overview & Scrutiny Committee that has not discussed my proposal to hold at least one future meeting at a venue other than Grantham. The Chair said he did not intend to debate the matter but commented “You may rest assured that we will hold a meeting in the Deepings”. Sadly, this comment hasn’t made it into the minutes of the meeting.

The first agenda item concerned Community Cohesion and I asked what the Council is doing to engage young people (i.e. under 18s) with SKDC service provision. During the ensuing debate Cllr Neilson made the sensible suggestion that perhaps a future Committee meeting could be held at a school (e.g. the Deepings School) and that this might include some interaction with the students.

The next agenda item was a presentation from Inspector Outen of Lincolnshire Police. Copies of his presentation are available on request (by e-mail to a.baxter@southkesteven.gov.uk). I asked about the impact of recent changes to custody arrangements, magistrates’ courts, back-office privatisation and the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The final item concerned the proposed £56,000 budget for Members’ ward budgets (to be taken from Council Reserves). I commented that I thought to introduce such a scheme in the year before an election ‘looks bad’. I realise I am in a minority on this issue, even among Independent Councillors, but this is my opinion. If the scheme were delayed until after the District elections of May 2019 I might have a different view. The following link to a story from South Holland illustrates how such schemes can be used for political advantage.

Earlier in the month, a Members Workshop had been arranged to discuss the detail of the Members’ ward budget scheme. This was held behind closed doors and Councillors beyond the Committee membership were not informed that it was due to take place. It attended by just one Councillor. Action notes from the ‘workshop’ were presented to the Committee but on asking whether they were public I thought I was instructed that they were to remain confidential. After the meeting I took legal advice and it turns out the are public after all so I can happily share them with anyone who asks.

Shareholders’ Workshop
The public meeting of the Shareholders Committee scheduled for the same date was cancelled and replaced with a shareholders workshop held behind closed doors. I attended the meeting as did several other Councillors including two or three people who are not on the committee including Cllr Trollope-Bellew and Cllr Neilson. I am instructed that the discussions of the meeting are to remain confidential.

Streetlighting Workshop
The Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee decided to hold a secret workshop relating to proposals to turn off SKDC streetlights between midnight and 5.30am. It was originally scheduled for Januray but was postponed due to illness. A few days before it was due to take place, the Council leader stated publicly that he personally did not wish to see the streetlights turned off. The workshop has been rescheduled to take place on 20th February, behind closed doors, immediately after the public meeting of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee. I have informed the OSC Chair that I do not agree with turning off streetlights during the hours of darkness and I see no reason why the debate shouldn’t take place in public.

Full Council – 25th January 2018
The meeting began with a minute’s silence in memory of the recently deceased Cllr Terl Bryant and former Cllr Norman Radley.

Despite the agenda documentation running to over 300 pages, the meeting would have been extremely short had it not been for the session of Members’ open questions and three motions submitted by opposition councillors. (one by a Labour Councillor and the other two by me).

During the question time I asked about the current public use and future plans for the existing Deepings’ swimming pool, especially in light of the announcement that construction of a new leisure centre will begin by 2020.

The first motion, submitted by Cllr Tracey Forman, requested that the LGBT Pride flag should be flown for the whole of the month of February (LGBT History Month). This was amended and watered down and resulted in the Council agreeing to ‘signpost’ from its website to information about LGBT history and about reporting Hate-Crime. ( http://justlincolnshire.org.uk/index.php )

The second motion, submitted by me, was to lobby for Local Government reform in Lincolnshire, specifically to abolish the County Council and to replace it with smaller unitary authorities. This was an interesting debate with contributions mainly from people who had taken part in the County Council elections earlier this year with the exception of the Leader, Cllr Matthew Lee who argued against the motion because reform would be difficult and might take a long-time (a bit like Brexit as another Councillor was quick to point out). It was suggested by some that my motion was an act of ‘sour grapes’ on my part rather than genuine opposition to a top-heavy, anachronistic, out-of-touch, geographically remote, inefficient, expensive and unnecessary tier of local government. Needless to say, most Tories followed their leader and the motion failed this time.

The final motion, also submitted by me, was a proposal to elect the Chair of the Council by secret ballot. This would have put the election of the Chairman above suspicion of it being a political appointment or people being elected to Chairman merely through ‘long-service’. This motion was also defeated.

Development Management Committee – 6th February
There were no applications relating to the Deepings at the planning meeting.
An application for a development site on the outskirts of Grantham included the following argument in favour of building a hundred houses on a greenfield site:
“It is anticipated that the improvements to landscape infrastructure will make a significant contribution to local wildlife habitats through … diversifying the existing monotone nature of unimproved grassland…”
The application was refused.

Stamford By-elections
Following the death of Councillor Terl Bryant and the prolonged absenteeism of Cllr Katherine Brown, there are two by-elections scheduled in Stamford on March 8th. These will present an opportunity for people in Stamford to elect candidates who will speak up for their communities and hold the Tory Council leadership to account.

Market Deeping Town Centre
Since last month I have had no update about the SKDC aspirations for improving Market Deeping market and moving it to the market place.
Through correspondence with New River Retail I have heard that the Co-op is in the process of a large property portfolio transaction with a well-known value retailer, Poundstretcher. It seems likely that the Market Deeping ‘Rainbow’ Co-op store will form part of that transaction.
This is probably good news because, while we might prefer an ‘Aldi’, ‘Lidl’ or high-end retailer, it will be better to have a ‘value’ retailer than a large empty store in the centre of town. The building is not in the best condition and it comes with a full-repairing lease which is not very attractive to potential tenants. Furthermore, high-street retail is in decline because so many people are shopping on-line and so many more are hard-up as a result of wages not keeping pace with inflation, zero-hours contracts and impact of Tory austerity policies.
Retail
Other meetings
Since last month, I have also attended part of the West Deeping Parish Council meeting on 5th February and part of the Market Deeping Town Council Planning and Highways Committee on 7th February.

Budget Meeting – 1st March
The next meeting of SKDC Full Council will discuss the Council budget for the financial year 2018/2019.
Potentially contentious highlights include:
£56,000 for a Ward Members scheme to enable Councillors to give £1,000 to good causes in their ward.
£345.000 reduction in corporate costs (details unknown but likely to be off the staffing budget)
£332,000 for an Innovation Team and a Transformation Team (from reserves)
£200,000 for the continuation of the Big Clean (from reserves)

Friends of Mill Field
I attended a meeting of the Friends of Mill Field on 30th January to discuss Lincolnshire County Council’s opposition to the ongoing Village Green application. A formal response is being prepared and solicitors are being instructed. . A CrowdJustice page will soon be established to assist with the legal costs.
The cost is likely to be significant as our Conservative County Council has a track record for finding sufficient money to fight legal cases against their own residents even if they can’t afford to run the libraries of mend the roads.

That’s all for this report. As ever, if you need any further information please get in touch.

Cllr Ashley Baxter
Independent District Councillor
for Market and West Deeping

January 2018 – Report to Market Deeping Town Council

Report to MDTC Full Council 10th January 2018

Happy New Year to all Town Councillors and residents of Market Deeping, West Deeping and all the other Deepings.

Saturday Market Plans
Following a conversation with Cllr Moran about the SKDC proposals for Saturday Market I have contacted Officers at SKDC to find out what has happened so far. I have been told that a Road Closure application has been made to the County Council and I have asked for a copy. There is currently no specific start date or budget in mind and it would appear that no consultations have taken place with local stakeholders other than Cllr Robins visits to the Town Council. I could be wrong but if I am, it’s not for want of asking.

High Street Pot Holes
I have submitted complaints to LCC formally and informally about the dreadful state of the road between Godsey Lane and Terry Wrights.

Budget Joint Overview and Scrutiny Group 10th January
At today’s meeting various members of the five scrutiny groups met together to offer comment and constructive criticism of the budget proposals presented by the cabinet. I commented and questioned about a dozen of the specific proposals including some of the ‘savings and efficiencies’. There is a line in the budget entitled “Reduction in Corporate Costs – £345,000”. I asked for clarity on how these would be achieved and despite loquacious answers from both the Leader and the Chief Executive, I am still none the wiser.

SKDC Full Council meeting 25th January
No agenda has been published for this month’s meeting yet but I am sure there will be at least one motion to discuss!

Scout Headquarters – Wellington Way
I am pleased that SKDC is making firm plans to build affordable housing in the Deepings. However, one of the probable locations is very close to the Scout Hut and I am a bit concerned about the impact. Personally, I hope that the Deeping Scouts will be properly consulted and will continue to have a suitable dedicated premises for the activities they run for our young people.

Development Control
I am now a full member of Development Control Ctte although I doubt that I will be able to attend all the meetings. I still welcome any comments and concerns about plans for developments in the Deepings.

Meeting Attendance
One of the Stamford Councillors has not attended a meeting since June last year and this should provoke a by-election, or so I thought until I asked for clarification and was told that the Councillor attended a Members Workshop in October. There are no minutes, agenda  or attendance available in the public domain about the meeting. This practice of meeting behind closed doors is becoming more common with another taking place today and another two planned for next Tuesday. Personally, I think nearly all council decision-making should be open to public scrutiny and I have submitted an FOI request to try to get more details about the various ‘secret’ meetings that have taken place.