Place Scrutiny Committee 13th July

Last night’s Place Scrutiny Committee was a lively affair, in spite of (or perhaps, because of) the heat and the more than four hours of debating.

Cllrs Courtenay (Conservative, Blenheim Park) and McMahon (Labour, Kursaal) managed to get under each other’s skin. All sorts of accusations were thrown both ways, principally (as I recall) regarding Cllr Courtenay’s assiduousness as a ward councillor. In the end the Chair insisted that both apologise to each other.

Later in the meeting Cllr Woodley (Independent Group, Thorpe), who does not sit on this committee, threatened his colleague, Cllr Aylen (Belfairs), with ‘consequences’ after Cllr Aylen gave a somewhat animated rejoinder to a Council officer.

The Monthly Performance Report received no comments in its own right, but attracted a fair amount of debate during the item on the Corporate Plan & Annual Report 2015. The Opposition in the form of Cllrs Cox (Conservative, West Shoebury) and Courtenay wanted this item referenced back to Cabinet. They were unimpressed with the figures and targets in section 11 (page 25) – Public Facing Performance 2015/16. My contribution, meant to assist the Opposition in understanding what was being presented, was to ask what the targets for the previous year were, and what methodology was employed when setting targets. Cllr Cox also presented a satisfaction survey he had acquired at another meeting, but he clearly was comparing apples and pears insofar that with different ways of measuring performance (and different questions being asked) a comparison could not draw any meaningful conclusion.

The motion to reference back was defeated by six votes to nine, and so the item was then referred to Full Council.

I did propose the referencing back to Cabinet the item on the Blenheim Park Pavilion Proposal. I am very concerned that the plans for a pavilion would see the loss of public open space. I did declare an interest as I have had a thirty-year association with local football in Southend-on-Sea.

Catholic United, whose first and second teams play in the Essex Olympian League (an intermediate status competition) want to build the pavilion and move from their current home in Wellstead Gardens. Whilst the document and plans do not make this clear, the provision of a pavilion would also entail the barricading off of a pitch and hard-standing all around it; dig-outs would also have to be made. This would effectively exclude the public from a significant part of what is currently a public park.

The local Labour Party has made commitments to protecting our public open spaces (admittedly missing from this year’s manifesto) and my resolve to try to have this pavilion idea rejected merely follows on from this. However, regardless of the local Labour position, my environmentalist streak will not allow me to ignore this.

Cllr Courtenay was also disappointed with the item, but his reasons were to do with the lack of public consultation. So, my motion to refer back was seconded by a Conservative member, and was carried by eight votes to six. The reasons were recorded as: 1, concerns about the loss of public space, 2, lack of public consultation.

There was an interesting few words in the Adoption of Southend-on-Sea Development Management Report. Under section 4 (Housing), paragraph 4.2 is this: “… seeking a better mix in the size, type and location of housing.”

I sought confirmation that this document could be quoted when objecting to planning applications, and received confirmation that it could. This should be helpful when trying to combat town centre overcrowding.

We also debated the Suggested in depth Scrutiny projects – 2015 / 16. I suggested that we could explore the idea of an urban wood – and this received three votes. The subject chosen was 20mph speed limits for our roads.

As always, this is not intended as a verbatim record of the meeting, neither is it complete. It is merely my recollection of what I thought was noteworthy.

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3 Responses to Place Scrutiny Committee 13th July

  1. Mike Hansford says:

    Re Catholic RC Pavilion Blenheim Park. Flabbergasted! – “barricaded area”, hardstanding (for spectators I presume), dug outs and so on. Absolutely no mention of parking provision!!!
    So one can now add loss of amenity, restricted access to a Public Park not only affecting the likes of , dog walkers, junior football groups that use the park and makes a mockery, indeed reinforces my contention of the “selling point” of providing changing rooms for general use! A selling point so far as Graham Longley was concerned when he spoke to me and why although not happy with the bar etc. he supported it!
    Today 16th July we received a letter Dated 14th July from Southend Council. Department for Place Head of Culture Nick Harris.
    My first reaction is that, as I suspected from the outset when this first came to light after the planners had been working on it for a year, that from past experience the timing of the disclosure was deliberate to coincide with the school holidays in the hope that residents would be away on holiday. On that count with a closure date of 24th August I rest my case.
    Also in letters to the press etc. I implied an element of duplicity and deceit surrounding this whole proposal and indeed the letter is a classic example of misinformation and lacks essential detail to enable residents to make informed comment.

    Originally we understood via the press that it was for the Catholic Rugby Club, which miraculously changed to a Catholic Football Club and now just a “Local football club”. Presumably Football being seen as more of a selling point than Rugby!
    The letter claims “The pavilion would provide a clubhouse /changing rooms for the Football Club and changing rooms for the other football teams hiring pitches “ . Since it was stated in the 13th July Scrutiny Committee notes that it would be “barricaded in” – presumably modern speak for fenced in – how will other users access the facility.
    There is no mention in the letter of the “barricaded pitch” with hard standing and dug outs also mentioned in the aforementioned notes. Looking at the so called “working drawings” I assume that is why there is a double solid line round the pitch adjacent to the pavilion but virtually no one else receiving this letter will – so how can they make a fair judgement and comment by 24th August when not in possession of the facts!
    Again absolutely no mention of any additional parking provision? Users will want to park near to the pavilion where there isn’t any available?
    What do they mean by “The park will remain open and available for use throughout any period of development” – Does that mean that after the development the “barricaded” areas including the pitch will no longer be accessible in a Public Park!
    If that is the case then a sizeable part of the Public Park will be lost to the Public and rate payers – the letter doesn’t say so, so how can informed comment be made!
    Notably the proposed building is at an access point to the park regularly used for over 60years by residents, dog walkers, picnickers etc. Will this be “barricaded” off I wonder since the so called “working drawings” are so vague and again those getting the letter are again without the facts! If it is blocked we would want to know where the alternative access is so informed comment can be made as requested in the letter !

    Please note this is only my initial comments on the letter referred to. This and much, much more will form my comments and objections to the proposal!

  2. Pingback: I’ve got you a chance to have a say – Blenheim Park Pavilion – Please use it! | James Courtenay

  3. Pingback: Aylen quits the Independent Group | Julian's musings

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