Peter Harris

Campaigner for Southwell & Villages Learn more

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Report from Kelham Hall – October 2013

by Peter Harris on 19 October, 2013

The District Council met on Tuesday Oct 15. There have been no meetings of any main committees that I have attended since the September, as there are so few meetings now of the Council and its Committees now. I will continue to send direct messages from the Council Chamber as the Council have now stopped doing so – perhaps it was just too embar5assing to have the information in public. The meeting was only watched by two members of the public and no press coverage!

In the mean time I have been been seeing officers on two matters particularly. I have been getting additional material for the Neighbourhood Plan, including evidence that the N&SDC has that it has not released as part of the Evidence Base. The Steering Group will then be able to use this evidence as part of its thinking in the development of the Plan. I will report on this as the Plan is brought together.

The other matter is attempting to make Councillors and Officers understand the severity of the flooding issue, and the impact of N&SDC planning decisions have had and will have on this. Sadly, there is little movement from leading Councillors to rethink the allocation of housing sites, even when one of the least contentious sites for their new housing is now subject to a note from the Environment Agency asking for more time to consider the implications of the July 2013 event. My fellow Southwell Councillor Julian Hamilton and I believe that there will be a change of policy from the Environment Agency when its considerations have been made. However, in the meantime the District Council continues to press ahead with its policies. At the last meeting of the N&SDC the Plan was again put to the vote, and only Julian Hamilton and Ivoted against the Plan, saying that it was too early to continue to make rash decisions about the flood risk in the town. Labour and Conservative groups voted for the Plan en block, including the Tory Councillor for Southwell!

One issue that I am pleased that the Council is considering is the amendment of its Housing Allocation Scheme, to facilitate local residents having more of a priority for local housing. I hope that there will be a better outcome for our residents, and Christine Rose who attends these meetings will keep us informed.

The new Policy of the Council to reduce to nothing the council tax support grant to Southwell as well as other towns and villages was agreed by the Labour and Conservative councillors. The grant was allocated to reduce the impact of the readjustment of the scheme. I asked whether the Council had received money from the Government to maintain this support [which is has had] but no satisfactory response was given by the Leader of the Council, as he said that the money was not ring fenced – so effectively could use the money wherever the Tories chose. They seem to want to direct more money to Newark – where of course they have a number of marginal seats!

The costs of two of these new schemes for Newark continues to be murky. The new Civil War Museum [although it is acknowledged that the Centre – not a Museum so admission charges can be made] will be a combination of both local history and Civil War. We have expressed concern about this, but there has been little change to the original proposal. No revenue costs are available to the public, as the decisions are being taken behind closed doors. It has since been discovered by work of Julian that the closure of the Millgate Museum cost the N&SDC over £260,000 with additional costs of reparations and dismantling.

Adding to this obfuscation is the lack of transparency about the capital costs of the new Leisure Centre in Newark too. There appear to be extra items being taken ‘in secret’ and we have received no assurance of what the limits of exposure to rising costs might be. Furthermore, there has been no clear proposal how much the extra facilities will cost to run. It is expected that there will be a significant extra cost of providing the service, over and above the costs of running the current centre at the Grove. We will report back as soon as any information is released.

Julian and I proposed that the some of the new Community Infrastructure Levy [CIL], and amount of monet that developers have to pay to improve the area in which they are building, should be allocated to pay for the flood alleviation works that may be required by the NCC’s Flood Alleviation examination. We asked that the Council consider how to do this in future. Although we were unable to gain assurances that CIL could be used for Flood Alleviation measures we were able to force the matter of the flooding onto the working agenda and we were given assurances that on the receipt of the report the District Council promised that it would consult with all relevant parties including Southwell Town Council and refer the report to the relevant committees .  We will continue to press this matter over the months.

My colleague, Christine Rose from Sutton-on-Trent, also proposed that PCSOs should be given powers to enforce traffic regulations. This is a matter that has been raised at a number of SNGs and we supported this matter. PCSOs cannot refer speeding offences for enforcement, and this is of concern as often the only enforcement in our rural area comes from PCSO presence. However, it is not in the gift of either N&SDC or Notts County Council to do this, as it requires Primary legislation. Although this is supported by Nottinghamshire’s Police Commissioner, N&SDC appeared to push the matter ‘into the long grass’ by referring it to a Committee to consider the legal implications. It is particularly unfortunate that this attempt to bury the matter was seconded by Southwell and Sutton-on-Trent’s Tory County Councillor. We will continue to press this matter at both the Council and the Safer Neighbourhood Group.

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