I mentioned recently that a couple of months ago I went across to Cranbrook’s Younghayes Centre where a brilliant event was being held to celebrate the presence of refugees from Ukraine. It was an evening of song and dance and costumes and a complete joy.

Afterwards I’d come out into a hot evening, treated myself to a bag of chips and just hovered around for a while to gauge the atmosphere. To me on a hot summer’s night there was clearly the sense that Cranbrook is establishing itself as a real community.

That said, as a council East Devon is highly aware that there is much still to do. The new administration of LibDems/Indies and Greens learned the lessons from the false promises made in the past, especially the now notorious placard up for years at the entrance to the town reading “Coming Soon: Cranbrook Town Centre”.

Locals will remember well that their promised town centre certainly did not come soon! But, thanks to a series of big and tough decisions my administration has backed, it is now.

A range of new shops, a new town square and a Morrisons supermarket should all be done by next Spring. As a council we funded the purchase of a further 3.85 acres of adjacent land so that we can control what happens next. The total available to be developed further should end up at around 9 acres.

It’s the opportunity for the people of Cranbrook to influence what happens next. Previously as a community it can hardly be blamed for feeling that things were done to it rather than with it. Now they will be fully engaged to give us a steer as to what they want.

As a former non-councillor, I am well aware what people think when they hear the word “consultation”. The previous council did this so poorly that understandably there are a range of comments from local people from “and they’ll ignore us and do what they want anyway” to “I tried before, got nowhere, and can’t be bothered to try again”.

I really get it. But the new council is not like that. In Exmouth we have bent over backwards to set up maximum consultative engagement around what the people want for the town centre and the seafront. There’ll be naysayers there too, of course, but all our meetings have been open, most even available to watch on Youtube etc. The range of documents you can find about the more recent Exmouth consultation is extensive.

Back to Cranbrook, as above, we already know what’s coming in the Spring. Now we all need to have a big conversation about the next phase. There are early asks for a youth centre, a children’s centre

and a library, as well as a fire station, a Health Hub and a leisure centre. But all this will need to be funded.

EDDC has done the hard bit in acquiring a big chunk of land so that the people get to say what happens next rather than the private sector. Now we need to hear from the public.

So, with no further ado, please may I ask local people to go to eastdevon.gov.uk/cranbrook-town-centre before the 10th November and leave your comments?

And come along in person to the Younghayes from 4-7pm on 9th November or the Cranberry Farm pub on the 16th November from 6-8pm if you have a moment. Apparently if you fill in the survey there is even a chance to win a £50 voucher, although I really hope the people of Cranbrook will want to do so anyway! Thank you.