Ten years, not out

I signed off my article in April’s Wenlock Herald thus:

“And finally…

I was elected in a contested by-election to Much Wenlock Town Council in March 2009. I was elected Shropshire Councillor for Much Wenlock in May 2013, and re-elected in May 2017. I have therefore now served the residents of Much Wenlock and the surrounding area for ten years. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been a privilege and I’ve met lots of lovely people. I intend to carry on for a few years more. As ever, if anyone has a problem that they think I can help with, they can contact me at any time by telephone or email – or stop me in the street.”

If I’m honest, up until just a day or two before the Herald deadline, I hadn’t given it a thought. The last ten years have flown by. I was working fairly hard up until the beginning of 2009 on number of roles including some retail consultancy and executive coaching, and a fascinating part-time role in a nationwide leisure business. Ten years earlier than that I was a main board director of one the largest, and most successful, UK convenience store chains.

So, what have I been involved in over those ten years? Lots of issues about road safety and flood management. We now have a lower 50mph speed limit on the A4169 through Farley. We have a lower 40mph speed limit through Shipton. The incidences of large vehicles meeting and getting stuck on A4169 at Sheinton Street are much reduced as a result of the traffic lights system. After some delays, the work on junction splays and signage from Wenlock through Benthall to Broseley is largely complete. This should keep most large vehicles off our narrow streets.

Back in 2010 I handed Much Wenlock Town Council’s Flood Management Manifesto to Philip Dunne MP at a meeting attended by Severn Trent Water, the Environment Agency and Shropshire Council. The surface water flooding in 2007 had been especially severe, with 64 Much Wenlock properties reported to be affected. The Town Council’s flood management group, which I chaired, worked with local residents to identify the causes and campaign for a solution.

Flood attenuation ponds at The Sytche and at Stretton Road were completed at the end of 2017 at a cost of some £2.1m which go a long way towards reducing surface water flooding risk, but there is still further work required to protect the Hunters Gate development, built 2002-2005.

As a Town Councillor I secured agreement that the cemetery field, at that time leased for grazing, be let to the Much Wenlock Allotment Society. There was some resistance at first, but today we see the results – productive plots with local residents working together, keeping fit, learning about food production, and saving money on shopping.

As a Town Councillor I led the fight in 2010 to resist the sale of the Lady Forester Nursing Home in order that it could be turned over to housing. There was an enormous outcry, and we organised a very well-attended pubic meeting in July of that year, which persuaded the owners to sell the nursing home to another operator. Today, under the ownership of English Care, we see the result – more investment and greater capacity. Moreover, the Town Council’s working group secured a £250,000 payment from the vendors in recognition of the substantial fundraising that had taken place in preceding years in the locality. I was a founding trustee of the charity we established to distribute funds to sick and elderly folk in Much Wenlock.

But, so far as the Lady Forester Nursing Home is concerned, we had another crisis in 2016 when the funding for the GP beds was threatened. Again I led the battle to save this valuable facility, almost unique in Shropshire – and we as a community, with the League of Friends, succeeded.

Finally, I was a member of the Town Council’s working group which proposed that Much Wenlock should embark on a Neighbourhood Plan, under the Government’s Localism Act. The development of the plan was launched in November 2011, with a number of community engagement activities taking place throughout 2012. It was clear that overwhelmingly Much Wenlock residents wanted more houses built for local needs, and more affordable houses. The Town Council submitted the draft Plan to Shropshire Council in April 2013. The examiner appointed to review the plan said “…a balanced assessment of the future development of the town”.

I said that it wasn’t all easy. We’ve lost three banks – the last one, Barclays, closed in October 2018 – in the time I’ve lived in Much Wenlock.  The Wenlock Edge Inn and The Feathers at Brockton have been closed for some years. The Wenlock Edge site is an unsightly mess, but the Feathers is showing signs of re-opening soon. Highways repairs, especially since the “Beast from the East” (the harsh winter of 2017-18) caused so much damage to our roads and lanes, are still nowhere near as satisfactory as I would like. And we still have the pernicious and chronic problem with dog fouling.

Nonetheless, at the end of this month, it was satisfying to to get together with community volunteers and embark on the latest litter pick around the town.  We’ve succeeded in keeping the town a cleaner and more attractive place to live and to visit. As I said at the beginning of this article “I’ve met lots of lovely people”