The new Council leadership took up office yesterday and I would like to wish them well. We should all be grateful for those willing to stand for local Government and take on these important roles in our communities.
I would also like to thank the outgoing Councillors. The Conservative administration reduced the District Council Tax in real terms while maintaining healthy finances, delivered reliable services and ensured it was the Council, not speculative developers, who ultimately determined where significant new housing would be built.
Planning is the hardest challenge for any local Council. The Government wants to see house building reflect local need while recognising that local factors may restrict the amount of houses that can in practice be built. Decisions on providing new homes while protecting the local environment are not easy. Significantly more homes are being built nationally now than when the Conservatives came into Government, this is to be welcomed but I appreciate the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party want to see this number increased further.
I am very conscious that while supporting the principle of more homes, it is invariably popular to oppose specific local developments. I have always tried to respect the fact that these are difficult decisions which by law have to be taken by the District Council who have designated resources to undertake that work and consult local people.
However the environmental risks associated with “Water Neutrality” presents our area with a very significant opportunity to explain why previously expected numbers cannot be delivered and adjust local plans accordingly.
I know Conservative Councillors were determined to use this opportunity to really work through what the right plan is for our District in the light of this fact and undertook substantial work on its implications.
The new administration has an overall majority and a clear mandate. I am sure they will make use of the resources available to them, do the work, consult where necessary and bring forward a development strategy that they believe works for our area. I wish them well in what I know is always a difficult process. While respecting that site determination has to be their ultimate decision I will always seek to work with them to deliver the vital infrastructure that any new development must secure.