Leadership pledges to take new approach

The new Leadership of Derbyshire Dales District Council have pledged to take a new approach to the Local Plan, housing and "take the politics out" of the long search for a permanent Traveller site in the district.

Councillor Steve Flitter, leading a new Progressive Alliance of Liberal Democrats, Labour and Greens, also promised at the new administration's first full council meeting on Thursday night to re-evaluate public toilets that have been closed in visitor hotspots and reinvigorate climate change and biodiversity strategies, while encouraging inward investment, reviewing car parks and tackling two big issues: waste collections and the financial pressure on local leisure centres.

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Councillor Flitter also said:

"If we are to move forward in a positive and progressive manner we have to review the structure of the council and the resources available. We will look at the capability to deliver the services, match the resources where we can and look for other opportunities."

The Matlock ward member introduced his speech with:

"It is a time of working together to make things happen. You can't change things overnight but we will hopefully change one or two things with everybody's help."

On the Local Plan, Councillor Flitter said:

"We will have a new approach, with the emphasis of protecting the environment, creating sustainable communities through energy efficient housing that meets the local need and is built in the right locations, making sure that proper infrastructure supports new and existing development."

Moving on to housing, he said the aim was to "enable everyone throughout the district to be able to live and prosper in their own community with a housing stock that is fit for purpose to meet the challenges of climate change, prioritising affordability, social housing and ensuring all homes are insulated to the highest standard, carbon neutral and cost-effective to run".

Councillor Flitter said to reinvigorate climate change and biodiversity strategies, the council would work with business, farmers and the community to reduce carbon emissions and enhance the biodiversity in the district's varied landscape.

"We aim to tackle pollution by promoting biodiversity, zero carbon technology, supporting green waste, rewilding, community orchards, allotments and reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides," he said.

The new administration would ensure an open, inclusive and transparent way of working, supported by an energised council management and workforce, listening and working together to create a fairer and more caring district by supporting residents, community groups and businesses, "making sure this council delivers the services they need and rely on".

Admitting that the council had struggled for decades to find a solution to the issue of Traveller sites, Councillor Flitter said:

"We want to take the politics out of this very highly sensitive issue. We propose to have one member from each group working with an officer to re-evaluate opportunities with a wider scope, looking for a permanent site as well as temporary sites and take account of the provision in the north, central and southern areas of the district."

On car parks, he told the meeting:

"We understand that our car parks are vital income but we have to look at how we can increase and make better use of them. So we have to widen the scope, looking why some are free, alternative land use, underused areas and opportunities for expansion."

Councillor Flitter acknowledged leisure centres "are going to be a big problem" due to rising costs, but said the administration was committed to ensuring residents could continue to enjoy the facilities by working hard alongside Freedom Leisure to secure a long term strategy that supported management and users.

Focusing on waste collection he said this was the one service residents valued most, adding:

"But it is a very expensive one and that has been very problematic and is a major concern for the council. The operatives you see on the street are brilliant, they are very good indeed, but changes in management and communication have led to frustration not only from officers but members alike. We continue to honour our contract responsibilities but we must seek alternative arrangements to protect this council and provide a vital service that meets residents' expectation if that contract ever fails."

In conclusion, Councillor Flitter said:

"Three words I want you to remember in closing: respect, honesty and dignity."

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