Letters to the Free Press editor - March 26, 2019
Let’s work together to improve local democracy
During last month’s council meeting a majority of councillors supported the recommendations to invite the boundary commission to review the size of the council wards in South Holland.
I was very pleased with this outcome, because I will lobby then to aim to make council wards more logical, based on local geographical boundaries and also reduce the number of councillors because I hope you agree with me about there being far too many politicians interfering in everyone else’s life and business.
I believe this will also improve local democracy. We have made made considerable progress in this area over the past few years by introducing policies such as webcasting of planning meeting, speeches from the public in planning meetings and questions to the cabinet from the public.
I also believe democracy is increased when residents are given a wide choice of candidates to vote for in elections.
In the past many contests have featured only two candidates. This does not give voters a chance to hear a wide range or arguments and policy suggestions.
This only occurs when as many different policies are presented to the electorate. I hope in the elections this year all political parties and groups make the efforts to give voters in all wards the choice of who represents them.
Let’s work together to improve local democracy and allow the people to vote for the candidates of their choice.
District councillor Spalding Castle Ward
Observations on SH District Council
There has recently been publicity in the local media regarding a number of important issues. We seem to hear frequently from South Holland District Council Conservative portfolio holders about what a good job they are doing and to be fair, quite often they are.
It’s perfectly reasonable that they are given these opportunities to explain their policies but there is another side.
The ticket machine issue makes me angry. I opposed the idea and warned of its flaws when it was first proposed but my objections were dismissed by the portfolio holder concerned. The opposition members are so few that it’s hard to fight such foolishness. We can sometimes only scratch the surface.
We do sometimes score – for example with the executive’s acknowledgement that our public toilets are a disgrace, even though they frequently remind us that the council have no legal duty to provide them.
This followed a working party group on which I served, formed from the Performance Monitoring Panel. Let’s hope proposals for improvements are implemented quickly.
The pressure opposition councillors also applied, sometimes via the local press, regarding the poor quality of leisure services in the district, helped to bring about a change in management.
I note that the planning department underspent by a significant amount – perhaps paying more attention to inspecting the quality of construction when new houses are built would have been more important. There will be much new building in coming months and years.
Hall Hill play area in Holbeach
About two years have now passed since the Parish Council asked South Holland District Council for a lease to enable new play equipment to be installed.
The money from 106 contributions still sits in their bank account unused. In answer to a written question at full council Coun Lawton promised to provide an answer by February.
March draws to a close, nothing has yet been heard and my email on the matter sent on March 14 has received no response at the time of writing.
The proposal to use county council officers to police parking is also a very mixed blessing. It’s good to prevent selfish or dangerous parking but so often what actually happens is that wardens simply ticket vehicles to generate revenue and can damage local economies by doing so.
When there are problems within our council they are rarely the fault of officers. They simply do what the ruling group tells them.
So it’s important that senior members of the cabinet actually hear what opposition members are saying and act accordingly, rather than steamrolling measures through and trying to justify failures after the event.
Coun Paul Foyster
This pod is certainly no carbuncle
At 2am the cat knocked my rather expensive Bulova quartz watch off the dressing table (attention-grabbing as wishing to be fed).
When I got up at seven, the watch had stopped. Took it along to Timpsons Spalding, where the courteous and helpful guy carefully took the back off, tested the battery (which was fine), then repressurised the watch.
Lo and behold, it was running again like a... well tuned watch.
He spent a good 15 minutes working on it but charged me not a penny. So far from being a ‘carbuncle’ (as some misguided council members described the pod), this is a genuinely useful addition to the Spalding retail portfolio. Well done! You can always trust a biker.
The future is looking up
The ‘Bid to renovate Hotel article’ in your paper a few weeks ago is indeed good news for Holbeach as that central part of the town is highly visible and reflects on the town as a whole. I am delighted that finally we have someone who is willing to work with the community and has his heart in the town.
Both Coun Tracey Carter and myself have been in regular contact with the new owner and also about a month ago had an extremely helpful meeting with the other property owners adjoining the Chequers Yard.
I noted Coun Foyster’s concerns about additional car parking requirements and his thoughts for a one way system for cars from the High Street onto Park Road.
This of course can only happen with the consent of the other property owners. Having spoken to them last month it is clear that our first priority is to get pedestrian access from Park Road through to the High Street, thereby linking the whole development with the footfall from Tesco, through Boston Road Car Park.
At this stage all of the property owners seemed keen for this to happen, which has been much requested for many years. Working with the other property owners there are options to greatly increase car parking on the whole site, by removing existing brick walls and one building. This will benefit not just The Chequers, but the town as a whole.
However, bearing in mind pedestrian access, we need to think carefully about any future traffic movement through the site, as not only will this tempt a shortcut to avoid the lights but could be dangerous for pedestrians, including the many school children who use The Chequers car park and Thomas De Moulton Way as a shortcut to the Holbeach Academy.
Coun Carter and myself with help from all the different property owners have found a solution to the danger of vehicles using Thomas De Moulton Way (up to 30 a day at one point!) as a shortcut, by blocking that off while renovations at the Chequers are ongoing for obvious safety reasons.
We have negotiated a way into the Chequers Yard from Park Road which is secured each night while the work is carried out. This may well provide a permanent solution to that particular problem. Lincolnshire County Council will also be doing more detailed work on the Market Hill traffic lights and traffic flow through the town, as part of the Holbeach Transport Strategy, over the summer, so it would be helpful that any thoughts on traffic into The Chequers are considered as part of the bigger picture, which I know the owners are keen to do.
Coun Carter and I have found it a pleasure to work with the new owners and also to be able to get all property owners surrounding the Chequers Yard together and working together for the first time in many years. The future is looking up!
Finally I also notice Coun Foyster has raised the issue again of opening up Boston Road Car Park overnight. This was considered by the district council a few years ago and there a number of reasons for not opening it at night, not least boy racers revving up their cars, along with other anti-social behaviour causing regular disturbance to house owners adjoining the car park.
I am quite surprised that Coun Foyster has raised this via the Parish Council agenda of which he is chairman, when after all he is a district councillor and could simply raise it there, either directly or through the scrutiny process.
The council is quite flexible about opening for longer when there are events in the town and this seems to work well. As discussions continue over the summer around the area surrounding the Chequers Yard, it would seem like there is an opportunity to provide evening parking there in the future to benefit restaurants and pubs in the centre of town, but we will have to see how that progresses.
Coun Nick Worth
County Councillor for the Holbeach Division