Report to Market Deeping Town Council – November 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council  13th November 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Deepings Neighbourhood Plan

The Neighbourhood Plan for the Deepings is currently in its consultation phase.  If you care about the future of our community and its built environment, please respond to the consultation.  Comments are particularly welcome concerning the future of Mill Field, the expansion of the town centre and the types and layout of new housing.

Deepings Neighbourhood Plan is at the public consultation stage

Christmas Market

Market Deeping Christmas Market and lights switch-on will take place on Sunday 1st December. There are more than 80 stalls booked and the entertainment is going to be varied and awesome.

Young musicians performing at the 2018 Christmas Market

Stop the Knock

Last year, SKDC used bailiffs’ services for non payment of Council Tax over 2,000 times.  The Council also evicted 31 of its own tenants.  There surely must be a better way… and there is!  The ‘Stop The Knock’ campaign is monitoring council’s approach to debt collection and has some innovative ideas for reducing the costs and heartache associated with council tax collection.  I have written to the Council Leader and the Chair of the Rural and Communities OSC and officers have informed me that the subject will hopefully be discussed at an OSC meeting early in 2020.

Meetings Not Attended!

In terms of Council business, October was a very quiet month with only 1 scheduled meeting.  I’m not talking about my meetings, I mean that South Kesteven District Council only had one formal meeting which was Planning Committee on 16th October.

16/10/2019   Planning Committee

I don’t sit on the Planning Committee at the moment but I had already sent comments and objections on two of the applications which were on the agenda because I had asked for them to be ‘called in’ by the committee rather than considered only by the planning officers.

The first was the erection of roadside services to including a petrol filling station with ancillary retail floor space on the Langtoft roundabout, north of Market Deeping. –  This was the second time the committee had discussed this application and I am pleased to say that the application was refused, contrary to Officers’ recommendations.  Not a single Councillor voted in favour of it (although two abstained). There were a variety of reasons for refusing it including the loss of a greenfield site, visual amenity and highways considerations.

Secondly an application to allow the transfer of up to 75,000 tonnes of waste per annum at the existing waste depot at Unit 2 Whitley Way Northfields Industrial Estate Market Deeping. This was a County application but the SKDC planning committee discussed the application and resolved to “urge the County Council to give due consideration to highway implications including increased parking and possible adverse impacts on amenity on surrounding developments, particularly the children’s nursery, through odour noise, and other pollution that may result”.

The meeting also dealt with:

  • Four dwellings at 21 Broadgate Lane, DSJ (Reserved Matters) – Approved
  • Seven industrial units at Spitfire Park, Market Deeping – Approved

Meetings Attended (Climate Change)

Despite the lack of ‘official meetings’, I have attended two council meetings, on consecutive days, concerned with South Kesteven’s approach to Climate Change.  

The first was a workshop for members of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) which heard evidence from the Environment Agency, the Woodland Trust and the Council’s own planning team.

The second was an inaugural meeting of the ‘Task and Finish Group’ on Climate Change commissioned by September’s meeting of Full Council. It was meandering at times but, on the whole, very productive.  The meeting was introduced to the fundamentals of Climate Science by the external expert, Prof Edward Hanna of Lincoln University.

Aside from the meetings, I have been doing my homework regarding the council’s environmental performance. I have discovered that in recent years recycling rates have been falling due to a number of reasons mostly concerned with the Conservatives’ cut backs.  At the same time, contamination of silver recycling bins has increased meaning even less effective recycling.

On the issue of the Council’s own energy use, officers are struggling even to establish a baseline.  It appears that almost no proactive monitoring of energy consumption has taken place for nearly a decade.  The figures presented have been incorrect and at times comical.  For example, it has been claimed that gas use at the small changing block next to the all weather pitch adjacent to Deepings School field is three times as high as gas use to the Council’s main office in Grantham.  On the positive side, officers are beginning to work with the suppliers and brokers to get more reliable information.  It would be very difficult to achieve the target of 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 without any baseline figures.

General Election

John Hayes might be an affable chap but please don’t vote Conservative!!

Remember, it is the Conservatives who have turned off the streetlights, caused the rise in foodbanks, made the cuts to the Deepings Library and Deepings Youth Centre causing them to become dependent on volunteers and grants from the Town Council. It is the Conservatives who have chosen to cut budgets for schools, hospitals and police. The Conservatives have also failed to negotiate any acceptable resolution to Brexit.

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.

“A happy ending to an untidy story!” – South Kesteven finally gets serious about trees.

A year ago, in October 2018, a group of workmen arrived unexpectedly at the Deepings Leisure Centre to cut down the mature tree which had dominated the car park since the centre was built.

Neither the Leisure Centre staff nor the staff of the Deepings School which shares the car park had been made aware that the tree had been condemned and neither had any of the ward councillors. As a frequent visitor to the leisure centre (and its car park) I was dismayed that what seemed likely a healthy tree had been destroyed.

This is part of the reason why, on 10th June, I wrote to the Chair of SKDC’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee asking that the topic of “Tree Stategy” be added to the workplan of that committee. When the draft workplan was published without any reference to trees, I wrote to the Chief Executive tabling a motion to Full Council that SKDC should develop a tree strategy to protect, improve and enhance the number and quality of trees in the District adopt the Woodland Trust’s Charter for Trees.

During the debate it became clear that the Tories couldn’t stomach the idea that an Independent might successfully propose such an initiative and sure enough not a single Tory voted in favour of it (although 8 were brave enough to abstain).

A few days after the meeting, the relevant Portfolio Holder, Cllr Peter Moseley (Con), appeared in the Stamford Mercury holding a copy of the Woodland Trust Charter which he and his colleagues had voted against.

Fast forward a few months and we skip to the good bit…

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SOUTH KESTEVEN BEST KEPT VILLAGE COMPETITION 2019

Cllr Andrew Bowell

I am pleased to announce that Deeping St James is the winner of South Kesteven Best Kept Community Award for 2019.

Organised by The Lincolnshire Branch CPRE, the competition is judged by volunteer judges.

The Judges visited the village twice, without any announcement, and on each occasion had a maximum of 150 points available to award across the following criteria:-

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• Overall appearance and condition – Absence of litter, unauthorised / unsightly refuse, absence of graffiti / vandalism, dumps on verges, general condition of roads and paths.
• Green Spaces – Provision for wildlife (such as bird boxes / feeders, bat boxes) and wildflowers. The general appearance of public greens, trees, ponds, streams, dykes, parks, nature areas, hedges, gardens, and allotments, as well as the condition of footpaths, stiles, field gates, signposting and children’s play areas.
• Public Premises – The condition of town halls, community centres, public halls…

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£5,000 for a “Future Visioning Programme” turns out to be a waste of money!

On 17th July, it was announced that the SKDC Chief Executive, Aidan Rave, was leaving the council to ‘pursue new ventures’. According to the blurb, Aidan had been with the council for two years and steered the authority through a period of significant change. Like so many other senior officers at Lincolnshire councils he was helped on his way with a financial settlement. The value of the golden handshake has not been revealed but, according to the Stamford Mercury, a cabinet member believed there was an ‘amicable settlement’ of around £75,000.

It is abundantly clear that Aidan didn’t spontaneously volunteer to ‘pursue new ventures’. We know this because just 8 months earlier he was participating in a ‘Future Visioning Programme’ which involved travel to Boston… I don’t mean Boston, Lincolnshire, I mean the other Boston in the USA.

The cost of the return flight to Boston was over £1,000. The cost of the course, which included 12 days of workshops or training, was a further £3,900. When the additional accommodation and mileage is added in, it can be shown that the total cost of this ‘Future Visioning’ was over £5,000.

I think it’s great that a local authority is prepared to invest in the personal development of its staff and it’s not uncommon. Back in the ’90s, as a relatively junior member of staff I was sponsored by my local authority employer to study an MSc. At the time, my study was subject to ‘golden handcuffs’ meaning that if I left local government within a specified period I would have to pay back some or all of the costs of my training.

Given the stories in the Grantham Journal that Aidan Rave’s sudden departure was due to a “clash of personalities” and a “big row” between him and the then leader of the council, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con), somehow I doubt if anyone will have asked Mr Rave for a refund.

Report to Market Deeping Town Council – October 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council  9th October 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Meetings Attended (and Not Attended!)

17/09/2019   Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee  

This was a meeting where we discussed the Council’s approach to Climate Change. I had already proposed a Climate Emergency motion to Full Council (see below) but Cllr Peter Moseley (Con) also proposed a similar idea. The OSC discussed the idea of setting up a ‘Task and Finish’ group on Climate Change. This is definitely a different forum to the ongoing secret workshops on climate change commissioned by the previous OSC meeting. It will have 6 Councillors, 5 Officers and, at my suggestion, 1 external expert to offer an alternative perspective.

At this meeting we also discussed and (almost) agreed a new protocol for informing District Councillors about trees in their respective wards. This should mean that we should at least be made aware of imminent felling of trees by the Council even if we might not be able to save them.

The Committee also proposed to recommend to Cabinet that SKDC adopts the Woodland Trust’s Local Authority Tree Charter. If this sounds familiar it is because it is very, very similar to the Woodland Trust’s other tree charter which most Conservative Councillors voted against when I presented it to Full Council a few months ago. Happily, we have now reached an acceptable form of words and, because it is now a Tory idea, we should be signed up very soon.

The OSC also discussed progress on some other issues including the Food Waste Collection pilot scheme which has apparently been applauded by DEFRA for its excellent participation rate although they haven’t yet gone so far as to offer the additional funding required to roll it out across the district, let alone the county or country.

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South Kesteven is recruiting a Climate Change Officer!

South Kesteven District Council is recruiting a Sustainability and Climate Change Officer to assist the authority in tackling Climate Change! The deadline for applications to this exciting job is 14th October 2019.

Who can hold back the tide in Market Deeping, Bourne, Stamford and Grantham?

The recruitment of this Officer is a direct result of the Council’s declaration of ‘Climate Emergency’ following a debate last month’s Full Council. I originally put the issue on the council agenda as a motion (submitted immediately after the previous Full Council meeting). However, in the intervening months, Cllr Peter Moseley (Con) presented a Climate Emergency report to Cabinet which also appeared on the agenda of Full Council. Cllr Moseley’s proposal included the establishment of a ‘Task and Finish Group’ to investigate how SKDC can address issues of Climate Change.

Our two separate proposals differed in terms of specific objectives and targets but happily I was able to meet with Cllr Moseley to discuss the differences between our two Climate Emergency proposals and to try and find a middle-ground.

It was agreed that I should propose an amendment to Cllr Moseley’s proposal which would include three key points:

  • Establish environmental performance indicators
  • Set a target of achieving ‘net zero’ emissions for the Council as early as possible before 2050
  • Set a target of reducing emissions from the Council by 30% by 2030.

We each took the draft compromise amendment to our respective Party groups and the proposal and the amendment were discussed by Council on 29th September.

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Trouble in paradise… Matthew Lee makes a resignation statement as outgoing leader of SKDC.

The dream team in happier days! Cllr Matthew Lee, Mr Aidan Rave and Cllr Kelham Cooke.

Loyal readers will remember that I posted a couple of months ago speculating as to the reasons for the sudden resignation of Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) as Leader of the SK Conservative group, and therefore as Leader of the whole Council.

At last Thursday’s Full Council meeting, Matthew had an opportunity to explain the reasons for his departure. Standing orders were suspended in order to allow him to deliver a ten-minute farewell speech (although he still continues as a Councillor on the backbenches – the Tories wouldn’t want to risk a by-election in his ward!).

There appeared to be no mention of the recent departure of the Chief Executive, nor the departure of the Council’s Monitoring Officer last November nor any mention of any health issues which colleagues had cited in the media as potential reasons for the resignation. In fact, the first seven minutes were devoted to celebrating the highlights of Cllr Lee’s two years at the top and how brilliantly he has been managing the ongoing projects and challenges that it faces. However, anyone hoping to understand why Cllr Lee chose to pack it all in so suddenly was only offered these next few lines:

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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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Report to Market Deeping Town Council – September 2019

Report to MDTC Full Council 11th September 2019
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Greetings to all Town Councillors! I hope you enjoyed your summer break. Here are some SKDC highlights from the summer of 2019…

Resignations and Appointments

In July, the SKDC Chief Executive, Aidan Rave, resigned from his post “to pursue new ventures”. Sources told the Grantham Journal that there was a “clash of personalities” between him and leader of the council, Cllr Matthew Lee (Con) which led to a “big row”.

The Council has appointed Paul Thomas as an interim Chief Executive. Mr Thomas has been with the Council for several years and, for what it’s worth, I think he is a sensible appointment.

Nineteen days later, Cllr Matthew Lee resigned himself as Leader of the Conservatives and de facto Leader of the Council. He did not publish any statement so we can only speculate why he threw in the towel after just two years at the helm.

The Conservatives met on 2nd September to elect a new leader. Deputy Council Leader Kelham Cooke competed with former Council Leader Bob Adams for the ‘honour’ and Cllr Cooke won the day. He is now almost certain to be formally elected as Leader of the Council later this month. He has promised a new more collaborative approach which would be most welcome.

Meetings Attended

Since the July meeting of MDTC, I have attended a few formal Council meetings.

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