Maldon is a Tory paradise

ESSEX'S Maldon District is dominated by one party at district council level and on May 3 the Conservatives will again be contesting each of the 31 seats in the area.

ESSEX'S Maldon District is dominated by one party at district council level and on May 3 the Conservatives will again be contesting each of the 31 seats in the area.

With a strong showing from independent councillors, the prospects for Labour, which holds only two positions, are limited - with only nine candidates up for election.

The district, formed in 1973 through local government reorganisation, has a population of 60,000 and healthcare is a central issue within the area with all four groups within the council calling for a new hospital.

Conservative group leader Alan Cheshire, also leader of the council, outlined the ambitions and policies of his party.

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He said the group, which holds 21 seats, would be aiming to win even more this year and had several key objectives.

Mr Cheshire said: “The Conservative council has for many years campaigned for new and improved healthcare in our rural district. “The main thrust being the provision of a local community hospital by 2010.”

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He said that after the council recently refused energy company Npower's proposals for a wind farm in Bradwell, the group would continue to fight the issue at the upcoming planning appeal.

He added: “Much of this rural district is recognised as unspoilt Essex countryside.”

There is also a clear indication of the group's intentions about the town of Maldon, which it regards as one of Essex's “unspoilt towns” with a history to be proud of.

He said: “The council will continue to improve its viability and vitality as its popularity increases every year with visitors.

“Its close proximity to its famous Prom Park, with its riverside and new water play areas, ensures many family visitors in the summer months.”

The party has pledged to keep council tax as low as possible, without loss of services, and to encourage energy saving and protect the local environment.

Mr Cheshire also outlined aims to consult and work with local people “for the benefit of all” and to continue to maintain the “very high” standards of Maldon's parks.

The leader of the Labour group, Una Norman, said its councillors promise to “face the future” by working with other parties and agencies.

She said that in the Maldon area, the group would pay attention to specific issues such as traffic problems and the Prom Park, while in the Burnham wards there would be a focus on the social problems the community faces.

She said: “The priorities of the councillors from Maldon and those of Burnham-on-Crouch remain, as always, different priorities in the eyes of their electorates.

The main aims of the group include the promotion of economic growth for local businesses to achieve “sustainable communities” offering employment for young people.

The group is also clear about the need to deal with crime and disorder and offer equal opportunities within schools and colleges, as well as working with youngsters to find solutions to their “social exclusion and vulnerability”.

Mrs Norman added: “We strive to implement improvements to rural transport for more access to employment and encourage the use of public transport to help the environment and encourage cheaper fares.”

There is also a focus on providing energy efficient affordable housing that contributes to finding solutions for energy provision in the future.

With two groups in the area comprising of independent councillors, Brian Beale, leader of the Independent Group, said it was important for its members to retain an individual perspective.

He said: “When we started in 1987 people hoped to put themselves up as independent and it was decided that, rather that be dictated to, we form a political sub-group.

“It even means that sometimes a couple of us would have different views - but that's the Independent Group's make-up.”

The three main areas that the members tends to share views on are the need for improved healthcare in the area, the provision of new housing and the situation surrounding the wind farm at Bradwell.

Mr Beale said: “We are for getting a hospital for this area, whatever happens.”

He said the group also uniformly backed the provision of extra healthcare in rural areas, serviced by local doctors.

He added: “We will support whatever is necessary for getting the plans in place. We would be quite prepared to designate land outside existing planning development boundaries to facilitate the dire need.”

He said concerns about the “visual image” of the rural area dated back many years, but the group were in favour of looking at building a wind farm out at sea.

The independent group are also interested in providing purpose-built smaller properties for elderly people to move into in order to free up larger homes for families who need more space.

He said: “Often people cannot get upstairs to bed and they live in one room. Local youngsters can't get a roof over their heads. We need more and more sheltered housing - two-bedroom bungalows.”

The second group of independent councillors comes under the banner of the Maldon and District Independent Democratic Alliance.

It holds four seats within the council and this year its members will be contesting a total of nine.

Group leader Michael Helm said: “We are a group of enthusiastic people not interested in politics but who passionately care about our local environment and want to return democracy to the local district council.

“We want to devote our time to solving problems in the district and improving life for everyone.”

He said each candidate pledged to support the provision of affordable housing for future generations, back voluntary organisations within the area and find a site for a new hospital.

Members also want to encourage “rural diversification” and create more local jobs to boost the economy.

They also have ambitions to conserve and protect the coastal heritage of Maldon and improve the local transport links while offering more activities for local youngsters.

Mr Helm said the group also had strong views on the local planning process.

He added: “We pledge to ensure that democracy is kept within the planning system by letting the final vote rest with elected councillors.”

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