While 2017 presents itself with many exciting opportunities for the council, which we will pursue with vigour and enthusiasm, sadly we will not be able to fulfil all of the hopes we held.
This is because, after more than a year of close co-operation and co-ordination between the ten principle councils of Lincolnshire, at the 11th hour the prospect of drawing down hundreds of millions of pounds in additional funding and opportunities for more growth, skills, and jobs locally was lost to Greater Lincolnshire.
Because two of the eight partner councils ultimately rejected it, the devolution deal we all worked on throughout 2016 has now been lost and there is no scope to revisit it.
Consequently the initial £450m for spending in Lincolnshire over 30 years on jobs, roads, infrastructure and education and subsequent hundreds of millions for housing, healthcare and criminal justice to name but a few high-level opportunities are lost and so too the potential for Lincolnshire to raise its profile on a national stage.
But here in North Kesteven we are committed to carrying forward our own plan, the NK Plan, which is a three-year strategic vision for service delivery for the benefit of residents, businesses and visitors in support of our flourishing communities.
One of the first things we will be doing in January is to begin work on a new waste services depot in Metheringham. This will enhance our highly-regarded waste and recycling services as the number of homes progressively increases; financed through careful allocation of additional receipts as new homes are built.
The depot will also include a further 10,000 sq ft of industrial space arranged over seven business units, following on from the incredible success of the 19 units we filled at Blackwood Court, North Hykeham in 2016.
Early in the year we will also see the realisation of the first stages of the massive regeneration project at Newfield Road in Sleaford when the first tenants move back into their reconfigured and much-improved homes. Work will continue for another year to fulfil the £8.9m project which is the council’s biggest-ever capital investment.
The Newfield scheme includes provision of 18 new houses as we continue with our pioneering initiatives to increase the availability of affordable homes locally. This includes 24 new homes – and two ground-breaking super-efficient passivhauses – which are now being let in Heckington, bringing to 200 our total of new council houses across the district over the past six years.
In the spring we hope to have confirmed the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan which will guide the forward planning of North Kesteven through to 2036, identifying what should be built where, when and in what numbers to meet our expectations and aspirations for housing and jobs growth coupled with appropriate schools, roads and health services.
As well as increasing our own stock of council housing, our continued priority for enhancing people’s lives includes a new initiative to build more houses for direct rental in the private sector, a scheme for making privately rented homes better to live in and bringing more empty homes back into use for families in need.
This last year we finalised a £7m investment programme in our leisure centres with the much-acclaimed refurbishment of ONE NK in North Hykeham, which has seen a significant upsurge in use; adult swimming rising 68 per cent alone and use at the new-look Sleaford pool continuing to rise 12.5 per cent annually.
In the interests of business growth, beyond the 19 new workshop spaces for growing businesses at Teal Park, we are stepping up measures to encourage inward investment and job creation in the LN6 area. The same can be said for Sleaford as we redouble our efforts in encouraging and enabling regeneration under the established Masterplan to allow the community to prosper, grow and flourish to meet existing and emerging needs.
We will also continue our programme of focused support for important and growing businesses across the district and continue to fund enhanced availability to superfast broadband which is of particular benefit to home working and small rural businesses.
As we grow the critically important tourism sector beyond the 2.3million visitors who discovered the district last year, we will be moving forward on the restoration of Mrs Smith’s Cottage, expanding exhibitions at Cranwell Aviation Heritage Centre, and stepping up our promotion of aviation heritage assets allied to the opening of the International Bomber Command Centre at Canwick.
Furthermore, as we seek to build on a series of high rankings awarded over the last year as the county’s safest place to live, with high levels of happiness, contentment and quality of life, where people feel they receive good quality, cost-effective services, we will continue to support of the economic, domestic, community and individual wellbeing of the District and its residents.
All of this is achieved against an ever-tightening financial position as we remain focussed on community need and vigilant in the delivery of highly-valued, cost-effective services
As a responsive and reactive council I assure you that everything we do is done in the best interests of the entire district.
And with the on-going support and participation of the community we remain committed to continuous improvement, innovation, investment and growth that benefits us all.