This is the first position statement since the district council elections in May. Obviously I am delighted and deeply honoured to once again lead the Council and I thank members for their support.
I would like to place on record thanks to those members who have not returned following those elections either through their choice or not, for the service they have given to the Council and the community.
There are a record number of new members elected this time and I welcome them to the first full ‘business’ Council meeting. I would also like to welcome Matt Bowers to the Council who takes up the post of Director of Environment & Planning following Rob Parkinson’s retirement in May.
Member Induction Programme
I wish to thank Officers, and particularly Rebecca Owen, for the comprehensive member induction programme. I think new and returning members all found it useful. The Member Development Group is keen to hear further feedback on the programme and would welcome ideas for future training and development needs.
5 Year housing land supply
It was extremely disappointing to be told in the days after the election that the Council can no longer demonstrate a 5-year housing supply as required by the Government. We have already seen the impact of this disastrous position with the recent appeal decision in Barwell.
In my opinion this will be the single biggest challenge this Council will face over the next 12 months. If we do not address this position we will be severely hindered in our ability to resist inappropriate development thanks to national planning policy. Our residents rightly expect us to resist unsuitable development – particularly where the much-needed infrastructure isn’t being provided alongside it.
I welcome the opposition’s commitment to work cross-party to try and address this problem. This will need to start with us quickly identifying land for 1000 new houses in order to get back to the position we are required to be and take back control of the planning system - to borrow a phrase used elsewhere!
Rail Freight Depot
I wish once again to re-state the administration’s strong opposition to the proposed strategic rail freight depot planned for the edge of Burbage Common. It is our view that the environmental impact on Burbage Common will be devastating and the emerging proposals for traffic mitigation will add to our already congested road network.
We will be reinstating the member working group to be chaired by Cllr Paul Williams. I hope that a cross-party and cross-community effort will persuade the Government that this development is not justified or wanted in this area.
I would urge anyone who is concerned to attend one of the consultation events being held over the next few weeks to have their say.
Similarly the Liberal Democrat Group has been consistent in expressing strong concerns about the proposed A46 Expressway and the impact this will have on this area. I’m grateful to Cllr Michael Mullaney for attending the county-wide Members Advisory Group (MAG) and setting out the administration’s position. We constantly hear that “all districts” have signed up to this. This administration certainly hasn’t signed up to this and while we will keep a watching brief on the discussions, we will be strong in our opposition should the route of this road detrimentally impact on this Borough.
Block C Retention & car parking
The administration committed to retaining Block C at the Crescent in the Council’s ownership and we have kept this promise. We believe we have a strong mandate to do so but also that it makes economic sense both for the income it brings for the Council and the ability to help shape Hinckley town centre’s future.
Officers are currently working on plans to increase the amount of free parking in the town, again another of our key manifesto commitments. The aim will be to boost the town and also help ease some of the on-street parking problems in the town.
Officers are also investigating options to install electric vehicle charging points in a number of the Council’s car parks. We aim to end the embarrassing position of being one of the few local authorities in the area with zero public charging points.
Proms in the Park
We are aware that many residents were very disappointed when the previous administration decided to discontinue the popular Proms in the Park event. I’m pleased to report that the event will be brought back next year, probably in August. I would like to thank Cllr Nichols and Simon Jones and his team for the work going into making this happen.
Enterprise Zone / LLEP
In February the LLEP board resolved to discontinue any future investment in Hinckley and Bosworth due to a stalemate over discussions over business rates in the MIRA Enterprise Zone. The Chief Executive and I have had some initial positive discussions with representatives from the LLEP and hope to bring forward to the next Council meeting some proposals which ensures the Council is left in a ‘no worse-off’ position with regard to business rate income but also unlocks significant future investment in the Borough.
LGA Conference and East Midlands Council’s AGM
I have this month attended both the Annual Conference of the LGA in Bournemouth and the AGM of East Midlands Councils. Full reports from both events can be found on their respective websites.
Campaign to re-open the Leicester – Burton (Ivanhoe) Line
I have had discussions with the Leader of the County Council about the campaign to re-open the Leicester – Burton railway line. One of the off-shoots of HS2 is that investment will be made in the line, which is currently used just for freight, for the construction of HS2. We will be supporting an initiative by the Campaign Group to procure a study into re-opening the line to passengers which could see stations open in the Desford and Bagworth areas.
We continue to support the A5 Partnership to push for much needed major improvements to this key route, particularly for the Hinckley area, which increasingly experiences significant congestion along with numerous bridge strikes along the Dodwells to Burbage stretch adversely impacting on local businesses and residents. We hope emerging plans and studies which we were advised of last week will support the case for new investment to help address these issues.
Green Flag Awards
I am delighted to announce the Council has once again secured Green Flag status for our two prestigious parks, Hollycroft and Argents Mead. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the Green Spaces team for their tremendous efforts in maintaining such high standards of work on these parks.
We were delighted to see Isla’s global “#islastones” initiative to raise awareness of childhood cancer win a prestigious national award from the Association of Town Centre Management.
England Cricket World Cup Victory
Finally, I am sure you will all join with me in congratulating the England World Cup winning cricket team following their amazing win over New Zealand on Sunday. I hope this inspires many young people of the borough to take up this sport and become more physically active.
Cllr Stuart Bray – Leader of the Council
In his position statement, the Leader expressed thanks to those former members who were no longer Council members, welcomed the new Director (Environment & Planning) and referred to:
· The member induction programme, thanking officers for their support with this
· the five year housing land supply and disappointing position which, if not addressed, would hinder the council’s ability to resist inappropriate development
· the proposed strategic rail freight depot which would have a devastating environmental impact on Burbage Common. Members were urged to attend the forthcoming consultation events
· the A46 expressway which would have a detrimental impact on the borough
· the administration’s commitment to retention of Block C of the Crescent
· proposals to increase free car parking in Hinckley to boost the town and help ease some of the on-street parking problems
· investigations into installation of electric vehicle charging points
· the return of Proms in the Park from 2020
· recent constructive discussions with the LLEP in relation to business rate retention and investment of the MIRA Enterprise Zone
· the campaign to re-open the Ivanhoe Line to passengers
· work with the A5 Partnership to push for major improvements to the A5
· recently awarded Green Flag status for Hollycroft Park and Argents Mead, for which the Green Spaces team was thanked
· the #islastones initiative, which had won a national award from the Association of Town Centre Management
· the England cricket world cup victory and potential to inspire local young people.
Members, in response, made the following points:
· The need for investment in green space in Markfield
· the importance of national sporting events, such as the cricket world cup, being shown on free to air TV
· the value to parish councils of being included in the member induction programme
· the success of Earl Shilton in Bloom and the need for all to visit to view the displays.