In the run up to the local elections on May 2nd I am publishing brief interviews with each of the candidates - standing for seats on both the Parish Council and Cheshire East Council - that respond to my request, in the order in which they respond.
To read interviews with other candidates you will be able to click on the tags at the bottom of the article. For example, pieces on the other candidates for the Alderley Edge Parish Council election will all be tagged 'Alderley Edge Parish Council 2019 Election'. Candidates representing the same party or group will also be connected via the tags and all articles will be tagged '2019 Local Elections'.
Craig Browne is an Alderley Edge First candidate for both the Alderley Edge ward on Cheshire East Council and Alderley Edge Parish Council.
Craig has lived in Alderley Edge since 1996, although he has been connected with the village all his life as his family first moved here almost 100 years ago and he says he has always felt a special connection with Alderley Edge.
Why have you decided to stand for re-election as both a ward and parish councillor?
It has been an honour and a pleasure to serve you over the last four years. I recall saying when I was elected, that I realised I wouldn't please everybody all the time, but that I would never give less than my best as your Councillor.
I hope you will agree that I have always tried to act in the best interests of the wider village and that I have tried to ensure that resources have been spent evenly.
I also hope you will conclude that I have lived up to my promise to be open, accessible and transparent in my work. I have provided continuous updates via my blog and social media, whilst holding regular surgeries on the last Saturday of each month.
How long have you been a parish and ward councillor?
I was elected at the last local elections in 2015.
What do you think have been your biggest achievements as a councillor in the past 4 years?
Number one has to be keeping our library open, after Cheshire East Council had threatened it with closure in 2017. Having got the original decision reversed, I have been delighted at the way in which the community has responded and supported me in helping to run the volunteer-led sessions on Tuesday afternoons.
There have been many other positives during the last four years: roads have been resurfaced, footpaths improved, extra parking spaces created, streetlights upgraded, new play equipment installed in the park and of course, the library has been saved; but, there is much more still to do (Rome wasn't built in a day).
What pleases me most, however, is that I now see a renewed community spirit in our village. I have tried to play my part in this through my active involvement in local voluntary groups, such as Alderley Edge in Bloom, LoveAlderley Traders Group, the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group and the Edge Association.
What have been your biggest disappointments as a councillor in the past 4 years?
The pantomime of the Council Chamber disappoints me, in which debates are played out for the benefit of the public, but in reality the decisions have already been made up front. This is one of the reasons why, along with my fellow Independent Councillors, I have been leading a campaign to change the way Cheshire East Council is run.
Inconsistencies in the decision making process at Cheshire East also disappoint me (residents who have been on the wrong end of a planning decision will have some first-hand knowledge of this). I have tried my best to address this, calling in more planning applications than any other councillor, to ensure they are debated publicly and openly by committee.
What do you consider to be the important issues facing Alderley Edge?
The most important issue will undoubtedly be the Cheshire East Local Plan (Part 2), which will help determine what the Alderley Edge of 2030 will look like. It is vitally important that whatever new development we are required to take, has the minimum impact on our green belt and comes with the necessary supporting infrastructure (including parking provision).
The second most important issue will be to finalise our Neighbourhood Plan, which will probably go to a community referendum in about 12 months' time. This is a similarly important document, because it will set out clear criteria for the type of development we see in future and will help to protect the character of our village.
What do you hope to achieve and how in the next 4 years?
I would very much like to be re-elected on 2nd May and this in return, is my pledge to the village for the next four years:
to continue my support for community groups and events; to work with residents and officers to care for our village; to continue to make our village more accessible; to press for more parking & encourage sustainable transport; continue to improve maintenance of our local roads;ensure the Cheshire East Local Plan delivers for Alderley Edge;to help make our village a safe and welcoming place;to improve scrutiny at Cheshire East and hold the Council to account.
What experience and personal qualities will you bring to the role?
I bring the experience of having been the Cheshire East Ward Councillor and an Alderley Edge Parish Councillor for four years. I have rebuilt relations with officers and this has paid dividends in terms of the improvements we have seen to roads and footpaths, as well as the surfacing and marking out of Ryleys Lane Car Park for the first time.
Having sat on Northern Planning Committee (as Vice Chairman) for four years, I have also gained experience of the planning process and have become well-versed in planning policy. Residents know that I am on their side and that I will always challenge development which is inappropriate for the village and detrimental to their quality of life.
Why should Alderley Edge residents vote for you?
Cheshire East Council simply has to change. It has to become more open, more transparent and more responsive to the needs of the residents it claims to serve. This will only happen with the return of more Independent Councillors, who owe their allegiance entirely to the people who vote for them and not to any political party.
I continue to be guided in my work by the words of John Wesley: "do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can". For me, this quote sums up everything that a Councillor should be and should try to do; it is the standard I have set for myself as your representative.