Hunted!

At a ‘private meeting’ last week, the Grantham Charter Trustees decided, as usual, to welcome the Belvoir Hunt to St Peter’s Hill in the town on Boxing Day.

This is a Deepings-based blog and I don’t intend to make a habit of reporting news about Grantham but this week’s decision by the Grantham Charter Trustees is interesting for a few different reasons.

Who are the Charter Trustees?

img_2857The Grantham Charter Trustees are the custodians of the mayoral chain of Grantham which would otherwise have become homeless at the abolition of Grantham Borough Council in 1974. The functions of the Council were transferred to South Kesteven District Council but it’s a shame to waste a mayoral chain and a coat of arms and so the Charter Trustees were established to uphold the traditions and reputation of the town. The fourteen Trustees are the SKDC District Councillors who represent Grantham, i.e. two from each of the seven wards.

Why were they meeting in private?

Unlike a proper Town Council, the Grantham Charter Trustees have no website, no proper schedule of meetings, no published agendas and no published minutes (This is my understanding – I would be pleased to be corrected). Given that the Trustees only exist for ‘ceremonial’ purposes, you might be forgiven for thinking this doesn’t really matter. However, if ceremonial functions don’t matter then why have a mayor at all? Continue reading

Fast and Furious? – The race to finish Grantham’s new cinema!

People in Grantham have been enjoying the cinema since at least 1916 when the first ‘picture house’ was opened by John Campbell. It seems almost that long that the Tories have been talking about the new cinema project for St Catherine’s Road.

A report was submitted to the SKDC Cabinet in February 2014 and in August 2014, the Council announced that £5million would be allocated to the development of a large multiplex cinema, restaurants and office space. The BBC reported at the time that the project could be completed by summer 2015. Continue reading

Wyndham Park? Where’s that?

For Councillors in Grantham, the historic Wyndham Park is the jewel in the crown of South Kesteven. Most people in the Deepings have never heard of Wyndham Park, let alone visit the park, and I suspect they would be surprised to hear how much attention the park is given by the communications team at SKDC.

Please fill in the online Wyndham Park survey, regardless of how much you know about the park. It presents an opportunity to feedback to SKDC about open spaces in general and to suggest they might be able to give more attention to green spaces in Bourne, Stamford and the Deepings.

In the last 18 months, there have been around 20 press releases relating to events and activities at Wyndham Park including two relating to surveys relating to people’s views about the park. A survey was carried out in July 2017 and another is being carried out this month (July 2018). It is no surprise that no survey has been undertaken regarding the council’s green and open spaces around the rest of the district including Jubilee Park in Deeping St James and Greenlands in Market Deeping which are both owned and managed by SKDC.

Wyndham Park has been awarded Green Flag status, it has had a series of public events including forest schools, easter egg hunts, May pole dancing etc.

 

Continue reading

Grantham needs a Town Council.

At the last Full Meeting of South Kesteven District Council I proposed a motion that Grantham should have a Community Governance Review to enable residents of the town to choose whether they wish to have a town council. My proposal was criticised with a succession of weak arguments along the lines of: ‘we once held a couple of meetings a few years ago but no-one turned up’; ‘we think it might cost a lot’; and ‘you live in the Deepings so what’s it got to do with you?’ (I’m paraphrasing!)

The conclusion of the debate was the passing of wrecking amendment put forward by Coun Ray Wootten (Con)  to say the Council would have hold a review only if they were legally obliged to or if SKDC ceased to exist. So, the Tories were able to say they were not against a Town Council in principle but would only vote for it in specific circumstances (and those circumstances would be if they had no other choice).

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Coun Ray Wootten (Con) and his wife Coun Linda Wootten (Con) pictured in 2016 with mayor’s hat, chain and ermine but no Town Council to preside over.

I’m pleased to read that this week’s Grantham Journal proves at least one resident supports the idea of replacing the Charter Trustees with a proper town council by publishing the following letter from Ann Wright: Continue reading

Defying Gravitas – Why is the Wherry’s Lane project in Bourne delayed?

Last week I blogged that Gravitas Housing Ltd has been planning to build houses in Bourne and that there are no definitive public evidence that South Kesteven’s Local Authority Controlled Company (LACC) is planning anything else.

On 10th January, the Deputy Leader, Cllr Kelham Cooke, decided formally to sell the Wherry’s Lane site to Gravitas Housing Ltd. If I have understood correctly, the council also agreed to lend £250,000 to Gravitas in order that they could afford to buy the land.

So, after securing the land and almost a year of Shareholder Meetings held behind closed doors, the Gravitas Directors (who are all employed by SKDC) decided to request planning permission for the erection of 25 dwellings on Wherry’s Lane in Bourne. A valid application was received by SKDC planning department on 27th March 2018 (which had been prepared by a consultancy in Louth!). Continue reading

#ThatchStatch – The statue that no-one else wants!

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After years of campaigning, the Grantham Community Heritage Association has now got the go ahead to put a statue of Margaret Thatcher on St Peter’s Hill in Grantham.

The final green-light came at the South Kesteven Development Management Committee (aka Planning) where Councillors discussed the pros and cons of a statue. The meeting was even busier than usual with television cameras and press people filling up the chairs.

Before the debate I did ask the Chair to be especially patient with my contribution. In the past he has been quite quick to cut speakers off if he thinks they are straying onto issues not concerned with planning matters or the specifics of an application which, I suppose, is his job. In response he asked me “not to be political”. The application was for a 6-metre high statue of Margaret Thatcher – How can anyone speak on that without being political?

When I asked questions of the Officers report and the public speakers, the Chairman was quite keen to shut me down, e.g. when I asked if the statue could have a revolving pedestal “or is the Lady not for turning?”. To give the Chairman his due, he did allow me to read the speech I had written, without interruption:

“Thank you Chairman,

I have called in this application because it I think it is appropriate that all major applications should be presented to the Full Committee and also significant applications. It is only fair to the people who support this statue, and the people who oppose this statue, and to planning officers, that such an important decision should be taken by a committee of Councillors, and not by officers under delegated powers.

This not just a plinth and a sculpture. This statue carries with it the reputation of Grantham.

This is a statue that no-one else wants. Westminster thought it would be the object of protest and turned it down… I don’t think you would be able to find a home for it in South Yorkshire or Liverpool as the trauma of the Hillsborough tragedy continues even to this day… I don’t think South Wales would want it, or the North East. Scotland has still not forgiven Thatcher for using them as Poll Tax guinea pigs… Margaret Thatcher will always be remembered in mining communities but, due to the enmity between Thatcher and the miners, there are no longer any mining towns or villages left in the UK.

Yesterday, this Council hoisted the rainbow flag to show its support for LGBT History month. This would have been illegal under Thatcher due to Section 28 of her Local Government Act which prohibited Councils from promoting homosexuality.

The Council has also recently decided to build new Council Houses. These will replace the ones that Margaret Thatcher forced us to sell off so many years ago. Most of those are now rented out by private landlords. Isn’t it funny how things work out?

Thatcher’s other achievements are well documented. In her first few years of office unemployment doubled to well over 3 million. Interest rates rose to 17%. There were riots on the streets of London, Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool.

Incidentally, it has been suggested that the statue is displayed indoors. I disagree with this as sure the best place for a statue of Maggie Maggie Maggie is OUT, OUT, OUT!

There are many other chapters in the Thatcher story. Her successful campaign to retake the Falkland Islands, the indefatigable resolve that she showed after the Brighton bomb almost killed her and her entire Cabinet. Her role in the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was, after all, a Russian communist newspaper that first gave her the nickname of ‘The Iron Lady’.

All things considered, I’m not a fan. Quite the opposite. However, the story of Thatcher and Thatcherism needs to be told. The shadow of Thatcherism looms over our political discourse in a much bigger way than any shadow that will be cast over St Peter’s Hill by this edifice. Thatcher and her legacy are now studied not only by politics students but by A Level history students. These kids will inevitably need field trips to better understand Thatcher and her background. Where better than Grantham Museum? And no doubt other people will make pilgrimages to see the statue (and pilgrimage is definitely the wrong word).

Obviously we’re only interested in the material planning considerations in this matter and I can’t see a planning reason to object but, more than that, I think the statue will have two positive impacts: firstly, it will be a boost for Grantham and the local economy; secondly it will help make people stop and think about Thatcher and all the things she did, and why some people still love her and why some people still despise her. I wouldn’t vote for Mrs Thatcher herself but I see no good reason to vote against this statue.”

Other Councillors have a different opinion of Baroness Thatcher, including Cllr Peter Stephens, a Conservative Councillor and resident of the Manor House at Old Somerby, who reflected at one meeting last year:

“She did upset a lot of people. A lot of people in the mining industry lost their jobs but, and I bump into ex-miners quite often, I don’t find that they miss the work that much anyway. Unfortunately, [now] it’s lots of Europeans and other people who have to dig the coal up…”