First and foremost, I want to say a huge thank you to the residents of Four Marks, Medstead, and Chawton. Your overwhelming vote of confidence in me during the recent by-election was truly humbling. It also delivered a surge in the Lib Dem vote by nearly 19 per cent – compared with May 2023.

As I step into my new role, my unwavering commitment remains: to represent local people effectively and serve as a strong opposition voice within our ward.

Conversations with residents over the past few months have highlighted recurring topics of concern on our doorsteps.  These have included planning, surface flooding, potholes, fly-tipping, and recycling. Indeed, it was recycling that spurred me into politics and I remain passionate that we should be doing much more on this within East Hampshire.

However, it is the huge amount of house building in the villages, often without any real coordination on infrastructure (think healthcare, waste disposal, roads, drainage, parking, and schools), which causes residents the biggest worry of all.

With the Draft Local Plan consultation now closed, the process of collating the residents’ views, alongside those of developers, is an immense task for the planners. I hold hope that we will adopt the new Local Plan soon. While it won’t solve all the problems overnight, it will, at least, help restrict building to planned areas.

My first council meeting was insightful and highlighted huge issues with communication. Some Councillors felt that they had been transparent on all aspects of the budget. Others – like me, who were new to the Chamber – felt they did not have enough information on which to base a decision – and subsequently abstained.

Nevertheless, the budget was passed, with a commitment to share information earlier and communicate more effectively in the future.

The budget revealed that waste disposal remains a significant cost financially, as well as from a carbon emissions perspective. It’s imperative that we help our residents understand what should and should not go into our recycling bins so we can reduce contamination and costs.

But the real issue is the sheer quantity of waste we produce. Wasting less would mean we buy less and discard less – which would help domestic budgets and save the council money on fuel, overburdened trucks and even the roads they travel on. Ah yes, and the potholes…

Cllr Roland Richardson can be contacted by email at: [email protected]