COMPLETING the refurbishment of Stratford Leisure Centre and being named among the top ten councils nationally for recycling targets were two of the biggest successes of the past year.
So says Stratford District Council leader Chris Saint, who spoke out following the publication of the latest State of the District report.
The report, which gives a snapshot of life in the district over the last 12 months and outlines the council’s future proposals for 2015/16, was debated at a meeting this week.
Both described as a ‘key event’ in the report, Coun Saint said the revamp along with reaching the top ten of 326 English councils for recycling and composting rates were equal highlights for the authority.
According to the report, 90 per cent of respondents were happy with their local area as a place to live and almost three-quarters said they were fairly or very satisfied with the way Stratford District Council run things.
But the report was criticised by Lib Dem Peter Moorse, who said it gave an overly optimistic view of life in the district, while Labour’s only councillor on the authority, Jason Fojtik hit out at the lack of affordable homes.
Coun Moorse also highlighted the fact more than 60 per cent of respondents disagreed they could influence development in their area, which he said was due, in large part, to the council not having adopted its Core Strategy.
The authority submitted the key document to the Government’s Planning Inspector in September last year but following a public examination and feedback from the inspector, it was forced to make a number of modifications.
These changes were formally rubber stamped by councillors this week and the document will now be re-submitted ahead of a further examination.
Progressing the Core Strategy, Coun Saint concedes, has been the biggest challenge for the council over the past year.
And although he is disappointed by the glut of planning applications, he maintained the re-submission was a positive step.
Going forward, he said one of the council’s priorities would be to improve the image of the planning service.
He told The Observer: “It is very frustrating as we have completed the work demanded of us but still we cannot adopt the plan while planning permission is being granted on appeal in many places where we would prefer development not to take place.”
But despite this disappointment, Coun Saint remains optimistic for the district’s future.
He added: “The New Homes Bonus is likely to reduce but our share of other finance streams may increase and we are largely in a good place to live.
“We keep down the council tax and balance the books – notwithstanding pockets of deprivation, we have a good quality of life.”
The findings of the debate will be used to help shape the council’s budget making process in the coming year.