Politics - Concerns about planning

What do we all understand about the Local Plan and how it will impact on us!

It is a plan that involves three players, City of Lincoln, North Kesteven and West Lindsey. It is a plan that will meet the growing population and their needs.

I shall take a look at a small area of this plan. Market Rasen seems a good starting point as I live here and represent the people of this area of West Lindsey.

We start with a quote from the Local Plan.

“Market Rasen is an historic town and therefore its town centre is of a large scale than would normally be expected for a population of its size.

Its location in the Wolds and the large rural hinterland it serves as a Market Town means it has potential for further growth that is appropriate and in the right place.

With an increased focus on the visitor and tourism economy, this town’s economic potential also needs to be reflected in the local plan in terms of land allocation for economic and housing growth.”

So what has the town centre got to offer?

It has 5 pubs, 3 of which serve food, 3 fish & chip shops, 2 Italian/Pizza takeaways, 2 Chinese takeaways, 1 Indian restaurant which also provides takeaways, 1 Indian takeaway, 3 Tea/Coffee shops/Restaurants, 2 bakers, 2 butchers, a green grocer, 5 charity shops, 3 estate agents, 2 hardware shops, 6 hairdressers, place where you can get a tattooed, have you nails manicured, and a collection of gift and clothes shops, beauticians, opticians, kitchen/bathroom/furnisher shops etc.

The main thing that I have noticed is duplication and a number of fast food outlets. Competition is good for the consumer but over competition means businesses struggle.

So the number of shops we have would accommodate extra population. What are we saying! We need an increase in population to support our fast food outlets.

Just by looking at the retail it’s clear our shopping habits have change over the years. More people are shopping online so it leaves some of the shops providing what we are unable to purchase online. Try and get a perm or haircut online.

The other retail is geared around socialising, going out to eat and having a drink. This depends on people’s disposable income. With this area classed as an area of deprivation, meaning that a high portion of people are on low income or benefits.

Even our takeaway habits are changing, supermarkets now provide takeaway meals at a fraction of the cost.

Our supermarket shopping habits are also changing with Tesco introducing Click and Collect. This will be the future, one stop shopping.

So to assume that the scale of the town centre is not proportionate to the population doesn’t make sense. You just can’t keep on building more housing without looking at the retail that is provided.

We now look at the economic and housing growth. This is a chicken and egg situation. What comes first, jobs or houses? All the way through the draft Local Plan a word keeps popping up ‘sustainability’.

Over the last few years we have seen a large increase in development in and around Market Rasen.

There has been Linwood Chase, The Brambles off Galamore Lane and De Aston Park. These are the larger developments, we also have the smaller developments of The Furlongs and more recently, Hunters Place off Willingham Road.

All across the town we are having small pockets of development and many

more are planned. 100s & 100s of new houses and no new jobs.

I think we have had enough of housing growth we need the economic growth before more houses are built. Having housing growth without the provision of jobs it’s not sustainable.

The developers are having a hay day and rushing through planning applications before the Local Plan is ready.

It’s happening across the whole district. Is it the greed of the developers who are just in business to make a living or is it the blinkered toothless government who can’t see what is going on.

Do they really care! This ‘head in the sand’ approach by the government is going to change towns and villages across the district and the way of life that we like. We try to have our say regarding planning but more and more it’s overturned on appeal by the Secretary of State. So called Localism, where local people have their say. What a load of tosh!

We have got ourselves into a situation of benefit dependency, a rural area with no jobs and a lack of adequate public transport. Let us be correct on this, it’s not the peoples fault that they are on benefit, it’s the whole planning approach we have of developing areas.

I think it’s immoral to put people into a situation where they have only one option. I will probably get my hand slapped for bring up a taboo subject.

How many of you are aware of the cost of housing benefit to West Lindsey. Of the £40m budget, nearly £23m goes on housing benefit.

It goes under the heading of transfer payments. The government gives West Lindsey a grant to cover the shortfall in this housing benefit, or they did! Last year the government reduced this by 10%.

The government told West Lindsey to come up with a way to recoup this shortfall. This is now where it gets a little murky. Each Town/Parish is taken separately.

The numbers of residents that are claiming housing benefit in that Town/Parish are calculated and the cost is put onto that Town/Parish precept.

So the residents that are paying council tax pick up that shortfall. It has another name, backdoor taxation. I have voiced my concerns over this and think it is the responsibility of the whole district and should be shared across the whole district.

This came to light last year when Market Rasen Town Council decided not increase their share of the council tax. When bills were received it showed an increase of around 11% on the town councils share of the council tax.

So what does this have to do with more development within the town. It doesn’t take an Einstein to understand that the more houses you build without the jobs mean the more benefits you pay out. In turn, it means the more it will cost the council tax payers of Market Rasen. I told you it’s a bit murky!

I’m just waiting to see if the government are going to reduce this transfer grant again this year.

Looking at the whole picture, I think we are in a mess. We are not short of housing, we are just over populated. We just can’t keep building houses, the infrastructure is not there. Doctors, hospitals, schools and transport are stretch to the limit. Even the drainage in the town is to capacity.

Everyone will receive a letter from our electricity distributer, Western Power. Not to be confused with your provider. A point of contact if we suffer a power cut.

This has set alarm bells ringing! When there is high demand for electric we get power cuts, known as brownouts.

This is where a major city like Lincoln takes priority over the surrounding towns and villages, areas in turn have power cuts to supply Lincoln’s demand for energy.

Over the last few years we have had mild winters so we have been spared brownouts. So with the projected increase in population and the extra demand placed on power supplies, will we see more brownouts?

The future looks bleak and no one is listening to us.

Coun Ken Bridger

Market Rasen Town Councillor and West Lindsey District Councillor