Residents present 900-strong petition against Sleaford Market Place plan
The petition, which amassed close to 1,000 signatures in the space of just two weeks, has comfortably surpassed the threshold for the matter to be discussed at an upcoming Full Council meeting on January 25.
The residents are opposing North Kesteven District Council’s £1 million vision for Sleaford Market Place, which involves blocking car parking access in the square, new paving and lighting around the war memorial and church.
Proposals have been sent back for deferral by councillors on two separate occasions, due to concerns of a lack of disability access and the loss of a toilet and office block for traders, as well as frustrations from businesses on the market themselves about the impact this could have on future trade.
Recent amendments to the scheme show parking areas for blue badge holders three days a week, a reduction to the size of the planters, new marked blue badge spaces in other car parks in Sleaford, and liaising with the county council on lowering the kerbs next to the blue badge spaces in the bay outside the library, including a proposed additional space.
This petition, which was done through the council’s own portal, presents a fresh opportunity for the proposals to be presented before the council, alongside the concerns that residents have.
Labelled “the pink petition”, it follows another petition which amassed over 1,700 signatures from residents in Sleaford, but that was done outside of North Kesteven District Council channels, so could not be presented to trigger council debates.
Both initiatives were crafted by disabled resident and campaigner Anthony Henson, who was at the North Kesteven District Council offices on Wednesday to deliver the pink petition in its entirety.
Anthony said: “We have two petitions. The white one started in August was directed to the planning committee who, despite the 1,700 signatures, virtually ignored it. The pink petition is still going, but I already have enough signatures to trigger a full council debate.
“I needed 300, in the two weeks it has been going I have got over 900 signatures. An extraordinary result that primarily reflects the depth of feeling about this awful plan that does no good for Sleaford.
“Together with the huge support that the people have vested in me, I feel an immense burden to deliver the message to NKDC in only five minutes.
“There is nothing particularly controversial about the petition. It simply calls on the council (as applicant) to, as the council’s motto reads: ‘do the right thing’, the honourable thing and to listen to what people want.”
He said the council should take heed of the motto on its crest, which can be found on the walls of the NKDC offices.
Anthony said: “The NKDC shield is shown with the motto Rectam Viam Sequi; which translates as Follow the Right Path or Do The Right Thing.
“The right thing is to do what the people are asking and, in the words of the petition: ‘NKDC must withdraw its application and engage with the town to find a plan that has widespread support, of which the Heart of Sleaford Project is one well supported alternative project.'”
Also in attendance for the handover was Anthony’s wife Yvette, who was born in Sleaford over 60 years ago. She says that the North Kesteven District Council plans are an attempt to “anti-democratically” force through plans which “deny many people access to this thriving community.”
She expressed her frustration at amended plans around blue badge parking, saying it is “newly imposed discrimination” to set time limits on when disabled residents can use the facilities.
“Being disabled is not a hobby. Provision of Blue Badge parking except for 9am to 3pm for three days a week shows that NKDC view disability as a hobby you take up while your children are at school.
“Taking away round the clock access for those with blue badges and telling them they are now only allowed to participate in community life three days a week 9am-3pm is not equality. It’s newly imposed discrimination. What next, a curfew for those with disabilities? I would like to see some humanity, democracy, caring and respect for people in this community.”
A spokesperson for North Kesteven District Council said: “We can confirm that a petition has been received today (Wednesday), the scope and nature of which needs to be considered by the proper officer.
“We will communicate with the lead petitioner in due course to outline the appropriate actions to be taken.”
Anthony was joined by Sleaford Town Councillor Dave Darmon as he presented the petition. Coun Darmon said that he hopes “common sense finally prevails” as the community’s “dislike for this poorly thought out scheme” is evident.
He said: “The signatures were gathered in a two week period over Christmas and the New Year when people were focused on other things, so it just goes to show Sleaford peoples’ dislike for this poorly thought out scheme.
“I’m hoping that NKDC takes this petition seriously and that the Market Place scheme is debated fully and democratically at the next Full NKDC meeting on January 25.
“The previous petition objecting to the Sleaford Market Place plan has now reached 1,700 signatures and objections are still being made on the NKDC planning portal in the run up to the next Planning Commitee Meeting on January 16. Let’s hope that common sense finally prevails.”