In spite of the challenging and unpredictable era is which we live, the past year has seen the local community really come together, embracing the vaccination programme and adjusting the way we live to protect ourselves and our loved ones. It has not been easy for any of us, but I have been extremely proud of the community spirit in South Kesteven, as well as the extensive work of SKDC to support those whose lives or businesses have been so heavily impacted by the pandemic.
If the past few years have taught us anything, it is the importance of our local communities and the role that grassroots groups can play in supporting residents and improving communal spaces. That is why we distributed around £68,000 in community grants in 2021 to support local groups and projects across the District, from a diversity festival in Stamford to upgrades at a community allotment in Market Deeping, and from new art equipment for Grantham Arts to contributions towards a proposed skatepark in Bourne.
We have also helped 201 residents this year with around £160,000 in financial assistance, not to mention the newly-launched Household Support Fund, which has allowed us to provide over £3,000 since 1st December alone to help those in need of support cover energy bills, food, and clothing during the colder season. It was also amazing to host our inaugural Community Awards, which gave myself and my colleagues the opportunity to meet some of the most dedicated and charitable members of our community.
To help local businesses, SKDC, with the support of InvestSK, administered £9.6million in Government grants between the months of April and November, helping nearly 3,000 businesses across the District access over £51million in funding since March 2020. We also have a variety of ongoing projects to boost the vibrant and diverse economy of South Kesteven, such as the £5.5million Future High Streets Fund for improving over 13,000 square metres of public space in Grantham town centre to increase pedestrian access and convert empty retail premises into new home. Additionally, the £1.3million Heritage Action Zone project will restore historic buildings in the town centre.
In order to ensure that each of our four town centres are supported, we have also been putting to work over £250,000 from the Government’s Welcome Back Fund to host events and campaigns to promote our local businesses, as well as carrying out maintenance and improvements on our high streets.
This is such an exciting time for SKDC, with so many projects taking place in all corners of the District to help improve local services, meet the demand for housing, and support our vital businesses and community groups. I am particularly excited about the new development at St Martin’s Park in Stamford, which will not only provide affordable homes but also significant commercial space, a retirement village, and beautiful open green space.
Having launched LeisureSK this year to ensure high-quality sports facilities across the District, I was also delighted that my colleagues and I were able to agree on the need for a full refurbishment of the Deepings Leisure Centre. The project will now go forward for a public consultation to seek the views of local service users and ensure that the revamped facility truly meets the needs of the active community who rely on this space for healthy living and social engagement.
There is so much to be optimistic about and I would like to express my thanks to all the staff and fellow Members across SKDC, as well as the wider community of South Kesteven, who have ensured that our District remains a positive and vibrant place to live despite wider challenges. We can all do with a relaxing and enjoyable festive season, and with that I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years.