New SLDC plan agreed - but politicians deny claims it is 'woolly, verbose and a waste of time' (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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New SLDC plan agreed - but politicians deny claims it is 'woolly, verbose and a waste of time'
SOUTH Lakeland District Council has today agreed a council plan for the next five years.
Just a year after producing its last five year plan, the ruling Lib Dem Cabinet has updated it to cover the period 2014 to 2019.
Councillors said the plan - which sets out the council's priorities - needed to be reviewed and updated.
In particular, to take into account the adoption by the authority of its Local Plan late last year.
The new five year plan puts the economy, housing, environment and health/wellbeing as its main priorities.
It also incorporates a key Lib Dem target to see 1,000 new jobs and 1,000 new affordable homes for rent in the next 10 years.
And Council leader Peter Thornton tackled some harsh criticisms of the plan.
Some members of the public described it as: “vague, verbose, without substance, woolly, requiring further detail, and a waste of time.”
Coun Thornton said: “I’ve been asked why we need another plan just a year after the last one. But things change, they move on, new challenges arise and the world changes. We are now a council with an adopted Local Plan and that can’t be emphasised enough.”
Councillor Ben Berry, for the opposition Conservatives, said the public had used 'very strong words' in their description of the new document.
Coun Thornton pointed out that only nine members of the public had used those specific terms.
“Yes nine people out there feel as you say that it’s verbose, woolly and without substance,” said Coun Thornton.
“We don’t agree with that. We will look at that and take it on board and will try to communicate better with these nine people. But what can be more specific than 1,000 new jobs and 1,000 new affordable houses for rent?” he asked.
Lib Dem frontbencher and deputy council leader, Coun Janet Willis also warned that it was ‘dangerous’ to pick out phrases from the public consultation.
She argued that there were examples in the consultation where people had made positive comments about the plan.
Ulverston Conservative, Coun Janette Jenkinson, felt the plan made too many ‘political points’ - despite an emphasis on partnership working.
“It doesn't make me feel anything like a partnership," said Coun Jenkinson.
"We are all in this togther,” she said. “We all want to see South Lakeland succeed and prosper but when politics starts coming into it - it takes something away from partnership working.”
Coun Thornton said: “On the subject of politics, it was the Conservatives that viciously opposed our Local Plan. We would rather work with you together on this. We will not say ‘that’s a Conservative and we will not work with them'.”
But Lyth Valley Tory, Coun John Holmes, hit back, saying: “We’ve never been against the principle of establishing a plan for affordable housing. Our criticisms focussed on how the plan was consulted on, how it was drawn up and the concentration of housing in certain areas. We feel uncomfortable about how it was put together.”
Coun Graham Vincent, for the Lib Dems, told the council chamber: "The things we can do now can have an impact even further than the next 20 years. Simply having a short term view is not going to get the results we want."
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