New leader says Shropshire Council is not poor and county needs an airport

Copthorne councillor Peter Nutting, elected as leader of Conservative group on Shropshire Council last night, spoke to BBC Radio Shropshire about his forthcoming role as leader of the council.

He talked about the council becoming a “doing council” and of investment in the business parks in market towns. He wants better quality jobs and sees opportunities arising from HS2 and building a Shropshire airport. In a reference to previous leaders, he said he was not panicked about money, declaring that “Shropshire is not a poor council.”

Speaking to Ryan Kennedy he said:

“I hope it’s going to be a very much more open council that looks outward to the people of Shropshire. I want to round the county to talk to businesses leaders, talk to town and parish council leaders and try and drive the economy of the county forward…”

“I really want after four years to say that we have improved the economy of the county and we have improved the quality of the jobs in the county. We probably need to improve the business parks around the market towns. On the whole, Shrewsbury does look after itself quite well. Because of the size of it, business drives it forward. The market towns sometimes need more help…”

“We also need to look at the impact of HS2 on North Shropshire. And we have the Tern Hill barracks site, we need to consider what happens there. There’s lots of opportunities but we do need to talk to business leaders…”

“I’m not panicked about money in the same way that the council has been. Shropshire is not a poor council. It has got money in reserves. What it has got is a deficit on its revenue account and we have got to try and address that. I think it has been overplayed at times in the past. I think it can be dealt with.”

Nutting was leader of Shrewsbury and Atcham Council for ten years:

“We did do things in those ten years. We built the theatre, the sports village, the livestock market and we helped the Environment Agency build the flood defences around Shrewsbury. So, we were a doing council. I want Shropshire Council to be the same.”

Asked about his support for a Shropshire airport, he said:

“I wouldn’t say that it was a priority. I think it is something we need to look into. It hasn’t got to be mainline… It could be just a freight airport. It could be just for business. It could be something bigger. If you have an airport, it’s what goes around it. They tend to have lots of warehouses and support services. And from Shropshire Council’s point of view, they pay lots of business rates, which then help the economy of the council and the county.”

Missing from this short interview was any mention of health, education and the struggle to fund services such as libraries in rural areas. Nutting made no mention of housing and the struggle to provide affordable housing.

Other than the non-specific mention of market towns, this interview was very much focused on the north of the county. Peter will need to show that he understands the differences between urban and rural areas, and how different South Shropshire is from the north of the county.

I doubt that proposals for an airport will fly. Such plans are likely meet ferocious opposition on grounds of noise, traffic and pollution. I would be surprised if a business case for a Shropshire airport stacked up.