LEADER of Chichester District Council Heather Caird has announced she will not be standing in next month’s local elections.
She has represented Fernhurst and Lynchmere for 12 years since she joined the council in 2003 and became leader after the last election in 2011.
She said she believed 12 years was long enough to serve and it was time to move on and do other things.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed it and met some amazing people both in communities and authorities who have been very kind and helpful and I have learned a huge amount,” she said. “The last four years as leader have been fascinating.
“I had been on the cabinet as member for environmental health for eight years and I knew how things worked, but it was a huge culture shock to become leader.”
One of her first tasks was to appoint a new chief executive as John Marsland retired shortly after she came to power.
I have thoroughly enjoyed it and met some amazing people both in communities and authorities
Diane Shepherd was the first female chief executive of the council when she was appointed in March 2012 on a salary of £110,000.
And together the two women set out to make their marks on the top roles at the district council.
One of the biggest challenges Cllr Caird said she had faced had been the preparation of the local plan, a process which had absorbed massive amounts of officer and member time for more than a decade.
She said: “It’s also been very controversial because on the one hand we are required by central government to deliver more homes and on the other hand we have a hugely precious environment in Chichester district which must not be spoiled.”
She said the council was now ‘sitting on the edge of its seat’ waiting for inspector to respond to the final consultations and modifications in the next couple of weeks.
Among the lows of her leadership Cllr Caird was accused of flouting planning laws over her plans to extend their new home in Tillington.
In the face of public criticism she admitted she had ‘got it wrong’ and should have been more aware of building work. She and her husband were forced to ask for permission for a revised scheme.
There had been the challenge of protecting front line services with ever diminishing central government funding.
“When I became leader we had a balanced budget. We knew money was reducing from central government but we saved £7.8m in the last four years.”
Among other challenges had been introducing car parking charges in Selsey and north of the Downs. Work also had to be carried out to protect seafront gardens and homes in the wake of flooding.
Among the highs of her leadership Cllr Caird said she had been thrilled to see the development of the new Grange centre at Midhurst as well as the success of the council’s Careline model for vulnerable people and the opening of the Novium Museum at Chichester.
The opening of the gipsy travellers site at Westhampnett would benefit the whole county of West Sussex , she believed.
Cllr Caird, who will attend her last meeting will be on April 22 said she wanted to travel more with her husband Jospeh Baker who had also recently retired.
She wanted to spend more time on her boat and carry out conservation work.
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