Green Councillors are challenging Conservative leaders on Herefordshire Council not to cut Leominster adrift in their plans. Green Party Councillor Jenny Bartlett spoke out at a Council meeting saying: ‘The Council’s economic plan is Hereford-centric. They have got the balance completely wrong. Job creation is only happening in Hereford.’
‘New developments in the city include an Enterprise Zone, Business Quarter, University plans, Urban Village, Football Club development and a new River Quarter’ said Cllr. Bartlett, ‘but what about Leominster?’
Members of the Herefordshire Market Towns Forum gave the Conservative Cabinet Member for Economic Development a roasting at a recent meeting. Forum Chair, Green Councillor Felicity Norman said: ‘Our members were dismayed by the lack of consultation, and the clear favouritism being shown to Hereford. We are calling for proper recognition to be given to our market towns, small businesses, and farming, food and drinks industries.’
Green Party Councillors have asked Herefordshire Council to look into pollution levels in the Upper Lugg river, where average levels of phosphates are seven times the limits set by the Environment Agency.
‘This is incredibly worrying,’ said Felicity Norman. ‘Such a serious breach of acceptable pollution levels could have a massive impact on future development and tourism, not to mention river ecology.’
She has written to the Chair of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee suggesting that the Environment Agency, Natural England and local authorities are complacent. She has asked that these organisations, along with the Wye and Usk Foundation, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and other expert groups, are brought together with the Council to devise an urgent action plan.
Councillor Norman has also raised concerns about intensive livestock units and how they are monitored. She thinks that the management of waste and cleaning operations may be part of the problem.
Councillor Norman has already raised the risk to the Council’s future plans should the pollution not be tackled and reduced, asking that the river be put on the Council’s At Risk register.
Leader of the Green Group Cllr. Jenny Bartlett added: ‘The data shows that phosphate levels are way too high. This should be of concern to anyone with a tourism business and anyone who wants to protect our precious countryside. We will continue to press for the Council to take this issue seriously.’
Herefordshire Green Party councillors have criticised the way in which Herefordshire Council is handling the sell-off of the County estate, which was agreed in December, and have called for notices to quit to a group of tenants to be withdrawn. The Greens say a clear plan of action should have been drawn up, and a timetable agreed and discussed with the tenants and their representatives.
Councillor Jenny Bartlett said: “We believe that an opportunity was missed to look at more creative ways of running the County estate, which had been badly neglected for many years. The decision was made with no real consideration of the options put forward by the General Overview and Scrutiny Committee (GOSC) working group, of which I was a member.
“Given GOSC’s recommendation to retain a reduced estate via partial sales, why wasn’t this option costed so that we could make a proper evaluation of this option? It is quite clear that Cabinet never had any intention of even acknowledging GOSC’s recommendation and that the decision to sell had already been made”.
Councillor Felicity Norman said: “When the decision was made by the Cabinet, assurances were given that the process would be handled carefully, with full support and advice being given to the tenants, who would also be given the opportunity to purchase their farms. This does not appear to be the case.
“We are calling for all notices to quit to be withdrawn until a clear plan of action has been drawn up, a timetable produced and full discussions held with tenants and their representatives.”
A Cabinet meeting of HCC decided on December 3rd 2015 to sell off all 45 of the Council owned small farms, totalling 4800 acres. This decision was made by the 7 Councillors who comprise the Cabinet despite an earlier recommendation of the Council’s General Overview and Scrutiny Committee (GOSC) to retain the estate and secure its viability through a structured partial sale so as to provide viable starter and progression farms.
The politically representative GOSC had reached its recommendation following extensive background research. The farm tenancies predating the 1995 Farm Business Tenancies Act had not been sufficiently fulfilling the stated intention of providing an initial entry into farming owing to the long term nature of the tenancies. However, these original tenancies have an expected average of only 7 or 8 years to run and the new tenancies under the more recent legislation are of more limited duration: in due course therefore the original purpose of providing a start and progression onwards in farming would increasingly have been fulfilled. In making a recommendation for partial sale the Committee had taken account of a need to raise funds to address a backlog of essential maintenance and thereby put the management of the smallholding estate on a sounder financial footing in the current cash-strapped circumstances. This was a balanced decision.
The Cabinet’s decision to sell the whole estate in a county with a proud farming tradition is a tragedy. This can best be seen as the outcome of short term thinking and a perceived necessity for an underfunded County Council to sell off irreplaceable assets in the face a misguided national austerity programme.
DESPITE substantial ward boundary changes that looked set to benefit the Conservatives, Herefordshire’s 2 Green Party county councillors were re-elected with comfortable majorities.
Jenny Bartlett and Felicity Norman of Leominster were celebrating success today after a hard-fought local election campaign involving many hours of canvassing.
The results declared at the local election count at Hereford Leisure Centre were: Leominster West – Felicity Norman (Green Party) 682, Con 486, Lib Dem 174. Leominster East – Jenny Bartlett (Green Party) 748, Con 587, UKIP 264.