Louth Area Committee: Transport Cuts, Accessible Play, And Planning Targets
October 1st 2014
People squeezed into a packed room in the Trinity Centre on Monday, 29th September, for a meeting of the Louth Area Committee. ELDC communication officer James Gilbert chaired the meeting, because the councillors present could not agree on which councillor to elect.
Transport cutsLCC's transport manager Anita Ruffle explained the effects some of the forthcoming budget cuts will have, but she wasn't able to give much detail. "The Louth Nipper is doing very well," she said. "In terms of its future viability that's helping its chances. LCC have to make £90 million savings next year, and that is going to affect many services. I don't know the fate of the public transport budget."
However, Ms Ruffle suggested that some transport services may see a 30% reduction from April 2015. She emphasised the importance of Call Connect and Inter Connect, saying they would "come at the top of the pile". She was unable to give precise figures for the cost of the Nipper, but suggested that LCC's subsidy of that service is "below £1 a head".
"Even a potential cut of 30% is really, really worrying," Councillor Sarah Dodds said. "I am particularly worried about rural parishes."
Ms Ruffle urged people to write about their transport concerns and send them through her.
Councillor Adam Grist of Legbourne Ward said "The service at the moment I know is greatly valued. It's a big issue. These people have already seen reductions in their mobile library service. There are some difficult decisions to make."
Sunday bus petitionLuke Goodwin handed in a petition for a Sunday bus service between Louth and Grimsby. The paper petition was signed by 916 people. Mr Goodwin found that of these, around 460 were paying passengers, around 420 were bus pass users, and 26 people did not say. There were a further 76 online signatures.
"We trialled last year having the county council service on a Sunday before Christmas," Ms Ruffle said, revealing that LCC plan to repeat this in 2014 for about five Sundays leading up to Christmas.
Councillor Dodds congratulated Mr Goodwin for doing a "brilliant job" in collecting so many signatures. "I am really concerned about the Sunday service," she said. "I have had discussions with people who have not been able to take jobs."
"This evidence demonstrates that there is a need," Ms Ruffle said of the petition.
The need for proper transport links is one of the areas Lincolnshire scores very poorly on in relation to other authorities. It's not just a concern for the 16% or so of households who don't have a car, it's also a problem for any business owners who rely on people being able to reach them. This is especially pernicious in a rural area which relies on tourism to a large degree. So for LCC to cut funds in this area with the intention of saving money is self-defeating nonsense, because cutting transport links will cost jobs and further harm the economy.
VergesIn the public forum, Jason Garrett commented on the state of local verges and the overgrowth on them, citing concerns about accidents and poor disabled access. "It's becoming very dangerous," he said. "It needs doing. The big issue is, it's not just one area."
Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders agreed with Mr Garrett, saying: "It really is shocking. I have never seen it as bas as this."
Councillor Pauline Watson also brought up the problem of a malfunctioning sign on Grimsby Road. Councillor Dodds agreed to raise the issue of the verges directly in LCC.
Play facilitiesRob Lepley, a local parent, spoke about the lack of outdoor play equipment. "Within the Louth area there are virtually no park areas for children with disabilities," he said. "The nearest one is in Lincoln. It would be hugely beneficial to have some kind of accessible play area. We are constantly being told about budget cuts."
"What we are going to try to do is have people form a group," Councillor Laura Stephenson said. Louth town council voted in June to form a working group to look at this issue.
"What parents want is a positive, structured approach," Mr Lepley said. "Parents will commute to an area which is inclusive."
"All I keep getting letters is that I've got a clock," Shari-Ann Hubball said, referring to the one item of inclusive play equipment in town. "It's defaced."
"The vast majority of accessible swings do not exclude the able bodied," Mr Lepley said. "They just include the disabled." However, he had further comments about the cost, saying: "It can be very, very expensive. If you try and answer the question in one go it can be too steep. There's nothing to stop us building over two or three years."
"It's five years since East Lindsey invested in play," Councillor Grist said. "Officers are looking at all East Lindsey play parks." However, he had reservations about the financial side, saying: "Even a couple of swings and you're into five figures. There is definitely a gap in terms of disability play. East Lindsey is poorly served in that respect." But he had optimism about the effect of new developments and the possibility of section 106 conditions that oblige developers to provide certain things for the community. "It think in a few years time Louth will be very well served," he said.
"I am aware that parents are constantly fighting the system," Councillor Dodds said. "I think play has developed a lot. We need to be aware of what best practice is."
PlanningAnne Shoreland, planning and policy housing manager at ELDC, updated the committee on housing targets for the area, revealing that there wasn't a target number of homes for Louth, only a draft target of around 2000 dwellings. "If all the applicants that are in the pipeline get approved we won't be allocating," she said.
Councillor Dodds asked about the effect of empty homes on these targets.
"We don't count empty homes because we don't have control over them," Ms Shoreland explained. "Evidence in East Lindsey points to quite high inward growth."
However, there isn't a five-year supply of housing, and this affects the outcome of the planning process. "If you haven't got a five-year supply then [planning] concerns are minimised," Ms Shoreland said.
Councillor Stephenson described the application for homes on Legbourne Road as "a monstrous carbuncle" and said: "We love Louth the way it is." However, she acknowledged the other side of that debate, saying: "If we had more people we would also have more money."
Councillor Makinson-Sanders raised the issue of surface water drainage problems.
"It's very hard in planning terms to rectify a town-wide problem," Ms Shoreland responded. There was some discussion of section 106 orders to mitigate flooding.
Councillor Makinson-Sanders was sceptical, and called section 106 orders "not the panacea that we are being fed." She said: "Wriggling out of section 106 is an industry in itself."
According to Ms Shoreland, only two developers have tried to get out of section 106 conditions in East Lindsey. The discussion moved to affordable housing ratios, and Ms Shoreland revealed that the Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA), a way of assessing land to see if it would be suitable for future development, does not lay down a specific percentage for this.
"Due to the flood problem, can we put some pressure on Anglian Water?" Councillor Stephenson asked.
"I don't want to talk about Anglian Water because I just get really angry," Anne Shoreland said. "They don't have a duty to co-operate with us." She spoke of the company's lack of communication.
"Anglian Water never reply to consultations" Councillor Makinson-Sanders stated.
Ms Shoreland said: "This water drainage is having an impact on economic growth."
Chair's updateJames Gilbert revealed that ELDC had received five dog-related complaints regarding Westgate Fields, and new signs had gone up in Hubbards Hills. He also reported on ELDC's efforts to maintain Railway Walk. The upkeep of the latter came under fire from Councillor Makinson-Sanders, who asked whether its broken seats would be mended. "It is not swept," she said.
James Gilbert also reported that the problem of the smell on Legbourne Road is "ongoing". "We are due in court shortly," he said.
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