LOCAL Democracy reporter Ellis Butcher takes a look back at 2019 to some of the big issues which came up in South Lakeland.


A £6 million council loan fund to create more affordable homes in South Lakeland was welcomed. SLDC announced it would allow housing associations to borrow at a low rates to support the delivery of 48 new properties. Cllr Matt Severn praised the initiative and said children often suffered from poor housing. Recycling boxes in South Lakeland were reduced in size to help stop bin men getting bad backs. It emerged that the 55-litre blue boxes were being replaced with smaller ones of 44 litres to avoid staff getting 'musculoskeletal disorders' and to cut staff fatigue.


Traffic snarl-ups in Ulverston could be killing people, according to campaign group Clean Air Ulverston. It was estimated that as many as 20 deaths in the town could have been caused by air pollution. Calls were made for a 20mph speed limit to be introduced as Ulverston’s Harry Brunskill said pollution caused serious health problems. Plans for a £4.9m revamp of Kendal Town Hall and South Lakeland District Council's offices passed a first hurdle. Councillors on the Liberal Democrat cabinet voted unanimously in favour but Conservative opposition leaders branded them 'utter madness'.


Changes were announced at the top of SLDC. David Sykes, director of people and places, was named new director of strategy, innovation and resources. Simon Rowley, assistant director of neighbourhood services, stepped up to become director of customer and commercial services. It followed a senior management restructure which saw Debbie Storr, director of resources, leave the authority after 20 years and Shelagh McGregor, the assistant director of resources and chief finance officer, also depart. Council leader Giles Archibald praised the council's track record on affordable housing. In January 2014, the council had set a target of 1,000 new affordable homes for rent by 2025. Cllr Archibald said he expected the target to be 'well exceeded' with a total of 460 affordable homes for rent achieved in the latest quarter.


Sixty candidates announced they were standing in the May elections. Sixteen seats were up on the 51-member council contested by five political parties and an independent. Ahead of the poll, the Liberal Democrat-run council had 29 councillors to 19 Conservatives with three Labour members. A call was made for more public toilets in the South Lakes to meet a 'desperate need'. Ulverston Cllr Mark Wilson raised the issue, saying the problem was particularly bad on the Croftlands estate. South Lakes businesses were crying out for staff, according to Coniston councillor Anne Hall. She said many businesses in Coniston and Hawkshead was struggling to recruit. She called for tourism businesses to provide staff accommodation as house prices were too high for young people.

MAY: A village parish council struggling for people to stand had to draft in support from SLDC. Casterton Parish Council, on the outskirts of Kirkby Lonsdale, was at risk of legally struggling to function after having just one councillor when it needs five. The area was called the North's new "economic hotspot" after an SLDC report found that the area's "gross value added," the value of goods and services produced - was found to be the highest in the whole of Cumbria at £2.5 billion, leading to praise from SLDC chief Lawrence Conway.


Doubling charges for foot and cycle passengers on Windermere Ferry was criticised for flying in the face of efforts to tackle climate change. Cllr Matt Brereton criticised the price hike by Cumbria County Council and said it contradicted the need to reduce car use around England’s longest lake. A £55 million flood defence project for Kendal survived a tense second vote by SLDC's planning committee - despite it being unanimously approved in early 2019. Residents complained that the measures would not protect against a 'Storm Desmond' and would cause too much damage to the town. But councillors agreed with appeals from the Environment Agency that the works should not be delayed after 60 alternatives were looked at.

JULY: Fresh plans to breathe new life into Kendal's 'declining' indoor and outdoor markets were outlined. SLDC planned to draw up a tender to lure private sector companies to take on the markets on a five-year lease to bring them into the 21st century. Train services on the Lakes and Furness Line were facing a battle to win back passengers. Cllr Doug Rathbone said: “Dare I say passengers still no longer trust Northern to provide the service."


A closed bridge in Kendal was set to be demolished to pave the way for a £1.6 million replacement after it was battered by the December 2015 storms. Gooseholme Bridge over the River Kent was shut in January 2016 but a formal application for its replacement was lodged with Cumbria County Council. SLDC avoided shelling out thousands of pounds in costs after losing a planning battle over Kirkby Moor Wind Farm. Planners turned down an application for the wind farm to stay in place, but it was upheld on an appeal, giving permission for it to remain until 2027.


Councillors voted 7-5 in favour of a controversial 57ft telephone mast on an Ulverston housing estate. Croftlands residents claimed they had been 'bullied' by mobile phone network operators to accept the development. But the planning committee was told that Government policy permitted the proposal.The number of motorists getting parking tickets in South Lakeland plunged by 1,700 in the space of a year. Between April 2018 and March 2019, a total of 5,200 motorists were given tickets - a sharp fall on the 6,900 tickets issued during 2017-18.


South Lakeland was expected to get more Syrian refugees in the latest round of a Government resettlement programme. SLDC leader councillor Giles Archibald said he was 'truly proud' of the role the council had played. "We have well over 200 refugees in Cumbria now and we have taken in six families and more will be coming," he said. Homeless people could be being drawn to South Lakeland because they preferred Kendal to the inner cities. Cllr Brian Cooper told a meeting Kendal was a 'hell of a nice place to live'.


Stress at work accounted for 17 percent of all staff sickness at SLDC, new figures showed. But 'non-work-related stress' resulted in far more staff taking time off, according to an annual health and safety report. SLDC had provided its workforce with mental health resilience training focussing on stress, depression and anxiety.


Concerns were expressed that a Furness village could get planning permission for nearly 50 new houses – despite unease about flooding. Brookhouse Group, based in Sale, applied to SLDC for permission to build on land next to Burlington Church of England Primary and Nursery School in Kirkby-in-Furness. But residents warned the site had flooding issues. The year ended with news that a quarter of children in 'wealthy' South Lakeland are living in poverty while rough sleeping was on the rise. There were fears that 'social inequality' could get worse across South Lakeland in 2020 with Universal Credit being extended and rents for housing association tenants set to rise for the first time in five years, councillors were told.