Corporate plan - Report is way off the mark

On July 27, West Lindsey District Council received and approved a paper on Priorities for a Refreshed Corporate Plan 2016-2020, which is on the council’s website.

The paper has three appendices, with appendix three claiming to set out the state of the district.

On its second page, there are two untitled maps: one shows the geographical position of West Lindsey, and the other the location of 18 settlements within the district.

Among the 18 are Gainsborough, Market Rasen, Caistor and Saxilby, and these are also mentioned in the document’s overview. Welton, however, is not on the map and, despite the fact that it is second only to Gainsborough in terms of population, is not mentioned in the overview.

In the text of the document, Gainsborough is referenced 70 times, Market Rasen (16), Caistor (eight) and Saxilby (two).

Despite the disparity in size, Hemswell Cliff gets 12 mentions, but Welton gets only three.

There is a passing reference to the fact that Welton has a library, and the next mention is to do with broadband.

The report simply states that ‘low-access areas’ in Fiskerton and Welton ‘may’ have improved since 2010. Well have they?

The district council engaged senior executives to deal with this issue, and gave a substantial business loan to a company that was supposed to resolve broadband issues; but here is written declaration it does not know if the situation has improved. Well it hasn’t.

The third comes in the statement: “There is a concentration of education and health workers in the Welton and Witham areas”.

Well that is somewhat surprising, because there is no ‘Welton area’. Welton is part of the ‘Market Rasen area’.

When the publicly-elected forum members were summarily dismissed, they were replaced by council-appointed officers, who were described as area managers.

The area forum held seven meetings a year, at which members of the public were able to engage with service providers, from both the public and private sectors.

The area managers, on the other hand, do not hold public meetings, and very few people know who they are.

Turning back to Hemswell Cliff, it has a hotel and conference centre, industrial outlets, retail outlets and a business park.

Hemswell Cliff has more employment opportunities than Welton; and yet it receives 12 mentions and receives more attention because it has been designated an ex-MoD Site, and in need of special treatment.

It is worthy of note that RAF Hemswell was closed to military use in 1967, and most of the real estate has been in the hands of the private sector since 1989.

So how can this report attribute child poverty at Hemswell Cliff to the site closure?

Even more outrageous is the report’s claim that child poverty in Bardney could also be attributed to its ex-MoD site status. Bardney was closed to military use in 1963.

In this context, it may surprise readers to learn that most of the village of Welton was originally taken up by the support areas of RAF Dunholme Lodge, which was eventually closed to military use at the same time as RAF Hemswell.

In the August 19 edition of the Rasen Mail, it was interesting to read that the council would carry out a review of Market Rasen’s services and infrastructure if new housing developments go ahead.

It was also interesting to read about concerns for public toilets in Market Rasen, and a bank closure in Caistor.

Welton does not have any public toilets, and it does not have a bank; yet, in the last year, the council has approved the building of 463 new homes.

In recent years, nearby Dunholme (which gets only one mention) has lost the Four Seasons Motel and the Lord Nelson public house, and this year a convenience store and post office.

Nevertheless, the council has approved a further 324 homes in the knowledge that Dunholme shares its infrastructure with Welton.

The report is littered with statistics, on a range of issues, over which the council has no control or influence.

What is needed is a complete inventory of the district, with a clear reference to community needs and assets, so that the council can ensure a more equitable distribution of public services and amenities.

Where are the railway and stations, where are the police? Where are the schools, hospitals and health centres?

Where are the cultural centres, the sports facilities or even the employment opportunities?

It is only when the council and the community have these points of reference that sensible decisions can be taken about the distribution of public services and infrastructure.

It would not be difficult: it just needs a template and a request for the town and parish councils to provide the information.

Group Captain P J Rodgers MBE RAF (Retd)