The report was read by Cllr Brian Saunders, Vice Chairman of CBC
As with our report of previous years, the biggest concern faced by many, is the spectre of development. Most residents we discuss these concerns with are acceptive of the need for development, but only when supported with a commiserate increase of appropriate infrastructure. It is pleasing therefore that the Local Plan submitted for consideration, has such a balance to it.
We have all suﬀered as a consequence of development forced upon us through the planning policy that favours developers, but equally accept the need for more homes in this part of the world. That’s why it is essential we continue to push our Local Plan for an early adoption. Employment is often an area that suﬀers most in random development, so it is encouraging to see such an emphasis placed locally on areas such as RAF Henlow to be preserved for jobs. The cumulative impact on our roads is currently being reviewed in some detail and after an initial hiatus, the new rolling stock and timetables for the trains has been well received.
Much of what we do as your Ward Councillors goes unseen. Much attention has been turned to areas such as minimising the impact of development if approved, and as seen recently in Langford, where an application clearly wasn’t buildable without signiﬁcant disruption to residents, that involvement resulted in an application being rejected. Too much disruption has been caused to residents by construction work and we are leading the challenge to the authority to ensure a smoother delivery in the future. Similarly, much work occurred in rejecting an application for a Traveller site in the ward and ﬁnally the quashing of a Judicial Review of a similar application in Astwick.
A signiﬁcant percentage of council tax is spent in areas that aren’t particularly evident to residents. Some 60% of CBC’s spend is in supporting the vulnerable, elderly and in children’s services. CBC continues to evolve our relationship with the Health Service, recognising the pressures being faced by all those involved in primary and acute health care. Plans are being developed to create new Health Hubs across Central Bedfordshire in an eﬀort to improve the frontline oﬀer in the primary sector and reduce the pressure signposted to the acute facilities.
We have also seen a signiﬁcant investment in frontline services across the authority in recent years. Starting with a new building in Flitwick, we are rolling out upgrades and new builds for residents in the leisure arena. These range from a new build in Dunstable to a refurb in Biggleswade and in other areas such as new football pitches secured from Section 106 agreements. It was a real pleasure to ﬁnally see the diggers roll on to the new Stotfold Football Club facility on Arlesey Road, after many years agreeing the deal between CBC, Stotfold Town Council and Settle Housing. This facility together with the existing pitches at Etonbury, rear of the new Greenacres Centre and elsewhere provides an enviable level of facilities. It also pleasing to be able to report that the ﬁnal surfacing of the roads on the Greenacres development are scheduled to be completed this month, allowing them to be oﬀered for adoption.
CBC have equally delivered an impressive number of new school places over the past few years. Since 2015, some 3,500 new places have been created, totalling over £60 million in spend. With nearly 90% of schools rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted, prospects for our children are improving daily, with our levels of those not in education, employment or training some 8% above the national average. Indeed, a recent peer inspection concluded that CBC was well managed and in ﬁrst class ﬁnancial order.
One area that has aﬀected us all has been the indiscriminate encampments on the highway verge across the area and the A507 in particular. The behaviour of one group who occupied an area on the A507 and elsewhere last year, was so appalling it triggered CBC applying to the High Court for an injunction against eleven named individuals from setting up unauthorised encampments anywhere in Central Bedfordshire over the following two years. Given the particular behaviour of those on the A507, we pushed for a permanent barrier to be installed which will prevent any such future incursion.
In addition to the roles as your Ward Councillors, we continue to promote the Stotfold, Langford and Fairﬁeld ward through our various roles including Deputy Chairman of the Council and Executive Member for Families, Education and Children.