Having been re-elected as Chairman of Wilmslow Town Council for the next Council year, Martin Watkins spoke about both the frustrations and successes of the past year.
Speaking at the Annual Meeting of Wilmslow Town Council on Monday, 15th May, he said "I would be less than honest if I did not reflect that maintaining a dialogue with Cheshire East has been difficult for all sorts of reasons. High on this list should be the emerging Local Plan where our general feeling has been that all our efforts have been to no avail. I shall return to this latter but on a different tack.
"Six years after responsibility for allotments should have been transferred to us, with undertakings given in writing, then retracted by Cheshire East, we have little to show for our efforts. There are ample examples where Cheshire East officials do not consider the need to consult with us (and other parish councils) on matters which will undoubtedly affect our citizens, such as the withdrawal of the 378 bus service and, more lately, the Wilmslow Area Highways Group who were trying to commit Wilmslow Town Council resources without our prior knowledge.
"Turning now to accentuate the positives. With all the delays and obstacles well down the pan, with finding little of interest beneath the car park, we are at last within spitting distance of being flushed with success. I refer of course to the toilet block at the Carrs which will be in commission very shortly. We do not want to be caught short, because the very successful Cinema on the Carrs event is fast approaching with, this year, a double event. And talking of events we have enjoyed a successful cooperation with the Wilmslow Business Group with some joint funding.
"Latterly, the handyman scheme has made a real difference to the appearance of our town and it is being noticed. If I am disappointed about the Local Plan, the same cannot be said of the emerging Neighbourhood Plan. That there are some two dozen of our citizens who sit down for many a long hour at formal and informal meetings of the Neighbourhood Plan Group and its sub groups is testament to their commitment to make our town a better place in a constructive and positive way. I, for one, am proud to be associated with them and the valuable work they are doing.
"So, what as to the future? I need to return to our frustrations with Cheshire East as, very recently, there has been a marked shift. It all started with the proposed demise of the 378 Stagecoach bus service in Cheshire East. As you will know, this involved this Council working with Handforth Parish Council, very quickly, talking to the bus operators and then putting our ideas to Cheshire East.
"Subsequently, there has been a decision to review both the 88 and 200 bus services which run through our towns because of a need to reduce bus subsidies. Cheshire East asked for a meeting with us which I, the Chairman of Handforth Parish Council and Councillor David Pincombe attended last week. On your behalf, both Councillor Samson and I made it clear that we wish to enter a discussion with them on this and other matters.
"To this end, a working group has been set up with us and Handforth Parish Council as the founder members and to which representatives from both Styal and Alderley Edge Councils have been invited to look at how better bus services could be developed for our communities. We have then been invited to further meetings with Cheshire East to discuss our proposals. This is an important piece of work with social implications. It is also a golden opportunity for local voices to be heard at last."