It is now just over a year since I had the privilege of being elected as your District Councillor and I would like to start by thanking everyone who trusted me sufficiently to vote in my favour.
I would like to start by recording my gratitude to the Chairman and Members of Hardwick Parish Council who have worked extremely hard to administer the Village over the past year and add my thanks to the team led by Martin Cassey who have embarked upon the challenging process of constructing a Village Plan. I shall return to this point later in my report.
I would also like to extend my thanks to all the voluntary groups who contribute so much to the lives of our residents. I was delighted that we were able to secure funding from the District Council’s Community Chest of £1500 each for Hardwick Scouts to purchase camping equipment and St Mary’s Church to buy and equip a store for the volunteers who keep our churchyard is such magnificent condition. I am always content to help other groups secure funding where possible and if those groups need help, please let me know.
I was elected with a mandate to seek the removal of the dreadful eyesore that stands at the entrance to our Village. The fire damaged building has remained untouched since it was destroyed by fire 10 years ago. It has recently been used as a drug and drinking den and is in my view an appalling reflection on our village.
I am pleased and relieved to be able to confirm that, at the eleventh hour of a legal process instigated by the Planning Enforcement Team at South Cambridgeshire District Council, agreement has been reached with the owner for the demolition of the building. Work is unable to start until both gas and electricity supplies have been safely closed down. The gas supply has now been capped and we await confirmation that the electricity has been similarly isolated.
Whilst local neighbours are naturally pleased to hear the news, some hold extremely valid concerns that the area is left in a safe and secure manner after demolition and we are now working to ensure that takes place.
I referred earlier to the work of the Village Plan Group who have embarked upon what I hope will be the beginnings of a formal Neighbourhood Plan for our Village. A Neighbourhood Plan would ensure that residents are fully consulted on a wide range of issues and would need to vote upon its acceptance in a local referendum. There will be a considerable amount of work involved and I hope that volunteers will come forward to help alongside the contributions of professional advisers for which financial support is available.
At this time the Local Development Plan for both Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire remains suspended following the intervention of the Planning Inspectorate but further work has been completed by SCDC Staff and the plan re-submitted. It is likely that the modified plan is unlikely to be approved until this time next year leaving the risk of speculative planning applications being made under the National Planning Policy Framework. Many villages in South Cambridgeshire have received such applications for cumulatively a large number of homes. Hardwick is not one of those villages.
However, I am sure that most residents are aware that we may be asked to comment formally upon applications for the development of around 200 homes between Hall Drive and St Neots Road and a further quantity of approximately 100 homes near Grace Crescent at the southern end of the village. Each application will have to be considered on its own merits at the detailed planning stage when your Parish Council will be asked to comment. It is at that time that all residents will have an opportunity to attend the relevant Parish Council meeting in order to express your views.
At this time the Government are seeking to include South Cambridgeshire in an East Anglian Devolution Agreement which will include the local councils covering Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The proposals include plans for significant local control over local government service and for a directly elected Mayor with executive powers over the entire region. The position of South Cambridgeshire District Council is that we will continue to negotiate the best deal we can for South Cambridgeshire with HMG right up until the deadline when we will consider the final offer from the Government and make our decision whether to join or not at a Special Meeting of Council set for 6.00pm on 28th June.
I would like to conclude by thanking you our residents for your support and our Parish Councillors for their diligent work over the past year and I wish them well in the year ahead.
District Councillor for Hardwick Ward
13th May 2016