Grantham Journal Column: Grantham needs a voice
Grantham needs a voice. This was the conclusion of both the Labour Party Grantham Branch and Charter Trustees meetings I have recently attended.
It echoes the comments of many local people recently, the outcome of a Journal questionnaire, and comments made at past meetings. As a result a Grantham Town Council Petition is to be formerly launched next week by local Labour Party members. It is supported by our Mayor Councillor Mike Cook and other Charter Trustees. Join us as we call upon South Kesteven District Council to start a formal ‘Community Governance Review for a Grantham Town Council’. If enough signatures are collected the District will have to further consult with residents before deciding on whether to proceed with a Town Council. All Grantham residents who are on the electoral register and not in a Parish already may sign the petition. It is available now on: http://www.granthamvoice.org.uk. Paper copies can be provided by calling 07398 156296 or look out for our Street Stalls and leaflets.
The planning process is an area where it is particularly important we have our own voice. Once made decisions are irreversible. At present Planning Officer reports do not include any comments from Grantham’s Ward councillors and Charter Trustees have been advised they cannot comment as a collective body. However simple planning applications and significant strategic development is taking place in Grantham. For example, the decision to build a multiplex cinema was made with minimal public consultation. Another example is the extensive development proposed by South Kesteven District Council within their Local Plan which poses a significant challenge. Most people support the provision of more homes and businesses, especially where they benefit local people, but the scale of development, equivalent to at least one, if not two small towns, is hugely concerning. The character, archaeology and setting of our town are threatened. SKDC officers, and councillors, mainly from outside Grantham, are pushing ahead with proposals regardless of whether, or not, locals consider them sustainable and before the necessary infrastructure is in place. Worse, the plans are progressing when the government is cutting both County and District Council budgets and our NHS is under threat. And, United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust, who are under special measures, are reducing, rather than improving our vital hospital services.
Whether the matter is of strategic or short term interest, it is an injustice that Grantham has no collective elected voice or control over how our money is spent. Whilst Stamford Town Council has debated many of these matters on behalf of its residents with appropriate parties, and whilst even the smallest rural village may attract funding and planning consultation through their Parish Council, Grantham is silent. Grantham has no such direct funding. Our funds go directly to the District & County Council with a small precept going to the Mayors Parlour for ceremonial duties. This simply isn’t fair. It is time for a change.