EDITOR- I attended the North Kesteven District Council planning Committee meeting on Tuesday April 24 because there was an agenda item about revised planning conditions for the new link road and bridge over the railway line. I must say that I was dismayed with what I saw take place.
First of all, NKDC rolled out a series of experts from the Lincolnshire County Council who continued to trot out the well-worn and erroneous view that:
a) the new road and bridge is vital for regeneration (although the only regeneration seems to be the Tesco store - the Bass Maltings project does not need the new bridge at all as access can be made from Mareham Lane)
b) the new road and bridge will help reduce congestion in the town (when the County Council’s own traffic report shows clearly that this is not the case) and
c) it is vital that the Southgate railway crossing is closed for safety reasons (which Network Rail have never proven and in reality are relying on the excuse of a hypothetical risk to achieve maintenance cost savings).
Yet again there was confused, or deliberately confusing, comment made about new and additional rail freight traffic that is to come through Sleaford and over the railway crossing. It is quite clear on the Network Rail website that their capital programme invests in the railway line to the east of Sleaford – the line that passes over Boston Road near the Football Club – to provide a freight line alternative to the East Coast Main Line and the heavily congested section between Peterborough and Doncaster. This freight traffic will come nowhere near the Southgate level crossing .
The proposed pedestrian bridge was again stated as an acceptable alternative for the level crossing - completely ignoring all the concerns already raised about its usefulness, and ignoring the fact that this motorway style of pedestrian footbridge would be an eyesore over the A1M, let alone at the edge of our town centre.
It seems that the NKDC, LCC and Network Rail viewpoint is to continue to promote their discredited statements on the basis that if they say them often enough - completely ignoring the reality - then the people of Sleaford will eventually have no alternative but to accept what they say as being right.
Secondly, four of our Sleaford district councillors at the Planning Committee – those that are also Town Councillors - were limited to making statements of concern about this item and then had to withdraw from the Planning Committee, taking no further part in the questioning of the experts, nor in the subsequent discussions on this item.
So how are the people of Sleaford being represented in relation to these important changes to our town?
Thirdly, the only statement of concern came from the Town Council, as the NKDC procedures prevent any form of public comment unless booked in advance.
Town Councillor Jackson put up a sterling defence of the Town Council’s position that the land on the Rec will not be sold for the new road.
However he could have been better prepared, as he needed to be when confronted with the concerted opposition of the committee, and the subsequent questioning from the planning committee members, which was unnecessarily nasty and bullying at times.
Needless to say the Planning Committee ignored all opposition and approved the revised planning conditions.
No one in Sleaford, I am sure, is against regeneration and investment in our town centre, but this has to be of genuine benefit to the townsfolk and not primarily of benefit to Tesco and Network Rail.