A “greener and bluer place to live in” is one of the key objectives for new Central Bedfordshire Council leader Richard Wenham and could become his legacy.
Achieving this aim relies on two of the local authority’s priorities, a shared vision for Central Bedfordshire 2050 and its carbon neutral sustainability plan.
“We’ve not done enough green-related schemes in the past, so that’s why we’ve stepped them up in the last year,” he said.
“I was part of the widespread support for the council’s tree planting initiative across the area.
“The sustainability policy was adopted by the local authority a few months ago.
“This can be viewed as all electric cars and wind turbines, but more fundamental is having a truly sustainable economy going forward.
“There’s also water sustainability, as this area suffers drought conditions for part of the year,” he added.
“And we want to improve air quality in towns, such as Ampthill, Sandy and Dunstable.
“We set up monitoring stations at various locations last year. It’s changing attitudes about how people use transport as well.”
He referred to a new portfolio he created to expand the responsibilities for Sandy councillor Tracey Stock to health and wellbeing and communities.
“This leads into countryside access, new cycleways and local leisure with children’s play parks and adult gym equipment,” he explained.
On COVID-19, councillor Wenham said: “It’s absolutely traumatic at the moment for those who’ve caught the disease and for those families where someone has unfortunately passed on.
“There is some hope with the vaccination plan. It may be we need different vaccines every so often.
“I hope for some normality by the summer, with the continued roll out of the vaccination programme.”
He praised voluntary and community groups and the contribution of COVID response officers in supporting vulnerable local residents.
“Adult social care doesn’t stop,” he warned. “There are significant extra pressures with children services and a rising number of cases in social services.”
In terms of local health provision, councillor Wenham described it as what the various health organisations want to achieve.
“Everything is underpinned by the NHS,” he said. “The health and care hub for Dunstable will move ahead.
“There isn’t a specific plan for health hubs across the rest of the area.
“But there are details around one in the north of the county to serve the Biggleswade area.
“Beyond that there have only been initial talks regarding other locations, although we intend to progress on that and speedily.”
As for how he relaxes away from the day job, councillor Wenham confessed to family commitments absorbing a lot of his time, with four children, two grandchildren and a third on the way.
“There’s not been much respite of late,” he admitted. “I hope the timetable will slacken a little eventually.”
He enjoys long distance walking in the likes of the Peak District and Lake District, as well as visiting the gym.