To the Town Council Offices! …on Monday evening for the monthly Wivenhoe Town Council meeting. Did ya miss us? This was the first WTC meeting since the summer recess back in those hazy days of July.
Or was it?
MC Hammer – aka Mayor Needham – opened the meeting with a commanding civic spanking of the best Mayoral mallet that money can buy from B & Q, and then authorised the minutes for the August EGM.
Hang on, Comrades – August? EGM? Most of lower Wivenhoe was too busy topping up the tans with some bikini action when the good Cllrs had the urgency to call an EGM. Same goes for bored bloggers as well.
Wanna see my bikini line?
Anyway – it was a lively old affair back in August it seems: the ongoing rumble of a zebra crossing outside the Co-op, the rate support grant, Section 106 allocation, buying up the old police houses, whispers of a *cough* WTC website – and here was me enjoying my Sex on the Beach. Or even at the Black Buoy.
But on Monday evening as I took up my place on the press table and feverishly awaited the (semi) political tease that is the Reports from the Borough and County Councillors, the heady days of summer but were a hazy memory drifting off down the High Street.
Kicking off with the catch up was Cllr Julie Young, Labour’s representative on Essex County Council.
“The 20mph speed zone for lower Wivenhoe was supposed to have been introduced in July. Government red tape has slowed this down. The Department of Transport has just issued advice on how to make this easier, which is rather ironic.”
Oh no they haven’t. Oh yes they have.
Punch ‘n Judy politics around the WTC chamber.
“I have written to the Minister, Norman Baker, but as yet have received no update.”
He’s probably caught up in the traffic along Alma Street.
“The proposed public footpath from Elmstead Road to Broad Lane is also stalling. Sadly the landowner has refused permission.
Elsewhere and I have had the usual concerns about lorries traveling along Rectory Road, Valley Road, Park Road…”
And the rest. Plus probably at a speed higher than 20mph.
“We were promised a new bus shelter during the first or second week of September outside William Sparrow Court for students waiting to travel to the Colne School. Watch this space.”
Or even shelter.
Taking a step to the Right – or is it Left? – I’m never actually sure in all of this centre ground mix up of the nu politics… was LibDem Cllr Mark Cory, one of the Colchester Borough Council representatives for the Cross ward:
“There is an event up at Henrietta Close this Saturday to promote the proposed new youth facilities and to re-launch BRA.”
Titter (oh yes) ye not – BRA is of course the very valid and worthy Broadfields Residents Association. Talk about a storm in a D-cup.
“Our friends from [the ACE] Wivenhoe Youth Hub will be there to help out. A BBQ will be in place, and we will have some designs for the new youth facilities that we want to buy, [ConDem] funding not withstanding.”
It all starts at midday and is certainly worthy of your support.
Cllr Cory continued:
“I am pleased to report that the University’s Knowledge Gateway roadworks along Clingoe Hill didn’t overrun.”
And keeping with the University theme:
“There is concern that the polling stations for the students at the Lecture Theatre Block aren’t compliant with regulations.”
Concern from whom? The Nation’s Future Leader’s or the local Cllr’s seeking their support?
“I will be attending the *cough* controversial Planning Committee meeting on Thursday that involves a local Wivenhoe issue. I shall leave you with that thought, and elaborate more at the meeting.”
Wise man. He’ll go far. Possibly all the way to the little wooden trestle table at the back of the Lecture Theatre Block come election time.
Keeping with the balance, and the next Borough Councillor to address the meeting was Labour’s Cllr Steve Ford of the Quay ward. Cllr Ford is a man of many talents, and one that can multi-task in the same manner that I can tie up a shoelace whilst chewing on some gum.
Searching in-between his Co-op shopping list and his WTC report, we learnt the following:
“I have asked for a site visit to the St John’s Ambulance building ahead of the Planning Committee meeting on Thursday.”
Two tins of beans.
Whoops. Wrong list.
“There has been a government consultation on planning.”
Two pints of milk.
“The key point is that if an application is sustainable, then it will pass.”
Much like the Co-op’s Bran Flakes after a night spent on the dark ale.
“Colchester Borough Council does have a local development framework, and so we should be OK.”
On more hyperlocal matters, the good Cllr Ford confirmed that there are concerns from residents along Valley Road about recent activity from Taylor Wimpey. Meetings are being arranged to hear the concerns.
Back in the Yellow corner (and up the road in the Cross) and Cllr Jon Manning briefly mentioned his CBC activity of late:
“There have been a few planning enforcement orders. Cars have been worked on in driveways, in what we believe have been of a business nature. This requires a business planning application. I shall be keeping an eye on this.”
A familiar ‘concern’ over polling booths was expressed by Conservative Cllr Anna Quarrie of the Quay ward. Anyone would think that there is a local election on the horizon, Comrades:
“I have called for an election box to be put in place at Broomgrove School for the Quay ward. Some of the electorate find it an inconvenience to walk down from the Cross to the William Loveless Hall.”
I bet they do. Especially so when yer seat is up for grabs next May, Madam.
What we need now is an apolitical piece all about parking matters. Bang on cue and it’s only Peter Kay, the public representative on transport matters with his well-researched monthly report:
“I have parking concerns over the May Fair congestion. What can WTC do about this?”
With the mallet now firmly resting on the chamber table, MC Hammer Mayor Needham politely explained that this is an issue for ECC and Highways to resolve.
The point was pressed further by Peter Kay:
“I have presumed that WTC is the principle body to push this.”
Ah – never presume.
A diplomatic game of hyperlocal political parking tag then took place. Little was resolved, but at least we now know that Highways have the final ruling over this one.
One by one as the County and Borough Cllr’s filed out, it was back to local matters and the business of what affairs our unelected (and UNPAID) Town Cllr’s can achieve.
Let’s start with Planning:
Confirmation came from Cllr Vaughan that the application to demolish, and then build a new property on the site of the St John’s Ambulance Building has been recommended for refusal by the CBC planning officers. The matter is now in the hands of the Planning Committee, which meets on Thursday.
Cllr Sinclair updated on the wet dock down at Cook’s:
“We are negotiating with Taylor Wimpey with regards electricity and water supplies. A compromise is hopefully being achieved.
There is concern that the wet dock is starting to silt up through lack of use. It is worth remembering that it wasn’t dredged from 1945 up until the current work.”
Finally residents at Cook’s have expressed concern that access to the pubic car park is clashing with the public footpaths.”
It is certainly worth a wander down there right now, what with the prestigious show home for Phase 3 now open to the public. The design map makes for telling viewing, even without the labeling of the land as flood plains. Ask the nice Taylor Wimpey PR person why the power points are positioned at waist height for some houses…
In totally unrelated matters – how is progress being made on the new Health Centre for Wivenhoe?
Over to the normally mild-mannered Cllr Lodge:
“I am incredibly concerned that we have waited ten years for this now, and still we aren’t receiving any answers. Our MP Bernard Jenkin told us that the money was there – he now needs to explain himself. I am really disappointed in this matter.”
It was resolved that WTC would write a letter to both Bernard Jenkin MP and the PCT.
It’s all about value for money, y’see. Much like the Best Value Committee aka the *proper* WTC meeting that is CLOSED to the public… amongst certain chattering classes around the town, Comrades.
Mayor Needham updated:
“Residents have reported parking problems with regards the 07:45 – 08:45 parking window for residents only. It is thought that this is too narrow a timeframe. It doesn’t help residents and it doesn’t help commercial activity.”
Enquiries are being made to see if CBC can modify this parking period to two separate times during the day. The message of course is to give residents priority over commuters, and to help local traders.
Wivenhoe Woods Working Party sadly reported back with yet more damage done to a picnic bench. Cllr Sinclair confirmed:
“This has been partially demolished with a portable BBQ. Three of these have had to be replaced in the past eighteen months alone.”
The working party is now looking at an alternative solution.
The Diamond Jubilee Group continues to move forward with ways that the town can celebrate the extra Bank Holiday next month.
I heard the pubs will be open…
After an initial meeting, a range of ideas are in place. Mayor Needham added:
“We are considering a long Wivenhoe weekend. Street parties, a church celebration, a teddy bears picnic, athletics at the KGV and then the possibility of a concert and fireworks display later in the evening – all are on the proposed agenda.”
Cllr Needham also confirmed that with May Fair preceding the Jubilee weekend, there is the possibility of a “week long festival.”
Best get those parking problems resolved…
Mayoral activity since the last meeting is as impressive as it is inclusive:
“Re-opening the re-furbished Broomgrove pool, the Broomgrove fete, the University degree ceremony, the Colne Bank School of Dance Show [special high praise] the Regatta and many, many others.”
It is tradition that every WTC meeting then has a mad as a wet hen moment. The report from the good Town Clerk then delivered – although *not* from god Town Clerk you understand:
“We have had to replace one of the climbing nets at the KGV. Sadly this was vandalised and sawn through. The cost is £700.”
Ouch yet again, with the response from a Cllr, which I presume (NEVER presume, etc…) was light-hearted:
“If I had my way then I would flog them in the stocks.”
A lengthy ramble then followed on finances and funding. In short, we’re f-ed. Well, not quite, but funding that trickles down from CBC to all the parish and town councils is now in something of short supply.
You don’t say.
“Stormy waters are ahead” confirmed Mayor Needham. Maybe those stocks aren’t such a bad idea after all.
Sticking with the wonga and £1,775 has been spent by WTC on replacing the windows in the cemetery chapel. This is a high figure, but an incredibly sensitive and emotive issue. It illustrates perfectly the problem of how a rural Town Council has some very complicated financial decisions to make, without upsetting local thought.
Moving onto more positive matters and the Cllr Sinclair congratulated Wivenhoe Sailing Club on such a splendid Open Day last Saturday, as well as high praise for the Environment Agency and the successful opening up of the Flood Barrier to the public at the same time.
“We had over one hundred and fifty visitors to the Barrier on what was a very busy busy Wivenhoe weekend.”
Celebrated local filmmaker, @samking12345 was also name checked for superbly capturing the day with his unique talents.
And then completely missing the point of hyperlocal journalism – save the best till last, Jase:
It’s only the pre-debate about the public meeting called by WTC to discuss the “generous” offer made by Jenny Moody Properties of two acres of farmland in return for planning permission for the land by Millfield School.
This was a meeting within a meeting itself. WTC has called a public meeting on 24th September, 2pm at the Loveless Hall [where else] to gauge the opinion of the residents.
Let’s hope that it is a revolting one.
JMP properties wants to build between “five to eight” private properties on the public land, which by a past political quirk of fate, is actually owned by Elmstead Parish Council. To appease the locals (and WTC) two acres of farmland have been offered up.
JMP is of the opinion that the residents of Wivenhoe are unaware of the full “generosity” that this offer presents. WTC is quite rightly calling a public meeting to reach a viewpoint.
Ah, but how best to stage-manage the meeting, Comrades?
There is the danger that the Loveless Hall could become an open shop for any ranting, revolting resident of Wivenhoe that is unhappy about not having their bins collected on time.
Mayor Needham runs a tight ship.
Plans were discussed to set up the chairs, have a radio mic, flog any locals that plots a course away from the main viewpoint.
The purpose of the meeting is VERY important: to see if JMP of Malden has the public endorsement to build private property in Wivenhoe. WTC wants a simple YES or No come the end of the meeting, and then the matter *should* be resolved.
Cllr Kraft pre-empted some of the questions that might come from the public on Saturday afternoon:
“What answer can we give if we are asked what use WTC would make of the two acres, if we were to accept the offer?”
Mayor Needham offered up:
“We can’t be definitive. Recreation use? Allotments?”
It was the type of PR preparation that the Prime Minister takes on a weekly basis ahead of PMQ’s.
A map was then passed around the chamber table, lifted from cough* a certain hyperlocal online forum, showing what is believed to be the farmland that is so generously up for offer.
I was surprised to learn that WTC hasn’t had official confirmation where the farmland actually is. The [very fine] map is only educated guesswork.
Elmstead Parish Council has been invited to send representation to the meeting. WTC then discussed the best way to event manage this situation – is the EPC representation overt or covert? Do we formally introduce them to the revolting public of Wivenhoe?
Best keep those stocks handy.
Jenny Moody Properties have also been invited, but this offer has been declined. It was suggested that a plant might be sent to the public meeting anyway.
It was confirmed that ex-WTC Cllr Cyril Liddy has now collected over one hundred and fifty signatures on his petition to grant the land by Millfield as official village green status.
This is incredibly worthy work, although WTC expressed concern that this is a slight sidetrack to the purpose of the public meeting, namely: should WTC accept the “generous” offer of the farmland as a pay-off for private housing?
Mr Mayor then made the point that the public meeting shouldn’t get deflected. This isn’t a platform for Valley Road Taylor Wimpey issues, finances, or public floggings.
It has to be said that this is genuine hyperlcoal democracy in action. A private developer is trying to get in the pocket of Elmstead Parish Council, with Wivenhoe Town Council becoming implicated in the deal. The revolting residents will have the final say.
Which of course is the way it should be.
Oh – and FINALY FINALLY – 22nd October is the date for the Mayor’s Tramp Ball at the Loveless hall [where else?]
Come as you are.