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