The Place scrutiny debut
July 9, 2013 6 Comments
Last night was the inaugural meeting of the Place Scrutiny Committee; Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has had a restructure as a result of Government cuts and this has necessitated change to the scrutiny committees. Here are my notes from last night, and these are intended as edited highlights rather than a reflection of all the business transacted in the near four-hour meeting.
We had a discussion on the subject of a lower Thames crossing. My view was that this option that gave the greatest economic benefit to the town is the one that we should support. It looks like whatever option is pursued it will involve toll booths – I argued that the estuarine argument (estuary crossings must have tolls) came down to the definition of what constituted the estuary. I think my arguments against tolling will likely be ignored.
The Community Infrastructure Levy is a good idea that I am happy to support. But, there is the big issue of yet more waste by the profligate Conservative administration. The slow (tardy) take up of CIL will likely see a gap between its start, and the ending of section 106 agreements. This could easily cost £400,000 to the borough (their estimate, so expect the real figure to be higher) at a time when money is in short supply. Cllr Jonathan Garston gave every impression of being quite complacent about this, taking solace in other local authorities who are even slower off the mark. I find this whole episode simply appalling, both the potential for lost revenue and the indifference to this shown by the ruling administration. This further demonstrates that their time in charge must surely end soon.
Then came the Statement of Community Involvement. The discussion turned to development applications and the notices issued to “immediately affected neighbours”. I asked for a definition of this and was told that this meant one house either side. Planning applications can be contentious and often I am asked why these are not better and widely advertised – now you know!
On the future use of the Central library in Victoria Avenue I asked a number of questions. The existing Beecroft art collection is to be moved into the current Central library, and the old building disposed of. This was explained as demolition of the existing building and the site sold.
I asked (again) about giving the Central Library building Listed status and Cllr Jarvis replied that this had been considered before and rejected. I also expressed the wish that the (damnable) Cliffs Museum project be abandoned; again rejected by Cllr Jarvis who said “it is still on track”. Cllr Jonathan Garston who next beside Cllr Jarvis remained trenchantly silent on this issue.
The Central Library will be a temporary home, and it looks like the disposal of the current Beecroft building will provide funds that will be allocated to the Cliffs Museum. Those that value a quiet and unspoilt cliffs will have to consider campaigning for the Beecroft to be preserved.
It is not all bad news at the moment – I am delighted that a general market is coming to the High Street. I am somewhat worried that this will be on Thursday – although Roots Hall market will go when the Shrimpers relocate to Fossetts Farm I am not confident this will happen any time soon.
The Lower Thames Rowing Club’s boat and club house item was referred up to full council by both Cllr McMahon and me.
At the end of the meeting we had to choose a subject for an in-depth scrutiny project. Cllr McMahon proposed Climate Change, seconded by Cllr Wexham. I also supported it. This was defeated, and amongst those voting it down was Shoebury Cllr Hadley, who is engaged to the debate over the merits of improved sea defences for Shoeburyness. Clearly he is not that worried about rising sea levels.