I’d like to respond to Martin Hill, the Lincolnshire County Council leader.
But first, a word of sympathy. He faces a mountain of cuts and no easy answers. The government has a fresh mandate, but attacks on the poor must be resisted.
He wants another big reorganisation. Yawn. From experience, these upheavals seldom live up to their billing. You just won’t get another £30m savings shuffling the pack again, whatever claims are made for them.
The bottom line for market towns with big plans (and Grantham’s Southern Quadrant is nothing if not big) is to hold onto planning powers.
There is nothing wrong in principle with government ruling that we must take our share of housebuilding. But there is everything wrong with this being shuffled off to a unitary authority based in Lincoln, a vital city with its own problems and priorities and, let’s not forget, with its own City of Lincoln council.
An ungainly beast with a mandate stretching from Mablethorpe to Market Deeping, from Gainsborough to Gedney Drove End is not going to be able to tackle quality planning in Grantham. Not that we’ve seen too much of that until very recently.
Beware of talk about panels. It is said that Lincolnshire market towns will get their own panels. It’s a ruse. Windy, worthy forums to replace actual planning powers. Without planning powers here, the housebuilder will walk all over you, laugh at you, and you will be free to moan at your heart’s content.
One local Tory ideologue, Richard Davies, tells me that “locals aren’t interested in structures” and, by implication, it’s OK to centralise everything leaving Grantham with a parish council equivalent devoid of planning powers and hence any real authority.
Everything we have been saying about market towns, the need for careful improvements to the townscape; the ability of residents to feel they “own” the changes made; the opportunity to get housing affordable to local people included in the town extension; not to mention bread and butter stuff about buses and parking; everything depends on local control of planning powers.
So, no thank you Martin Hill. If you really need to strip out a layer of local government, then why not choose the most remote one, yours?
The Old School,
Kirkby Underwood Road, Aslackby