To the Town Council Office! …on Monday evening for the monthly chin wag between Wivenhoe Town councillors, plus some head nodding and scribbling in the background from the bored hit and miss hyperlocal blogger.
But wait! What’s this!
It’s only the good man Mr Mule sitting in the council chamber, scrubbed up and looking resplendent ahead of the civic formalities.
Aye aye, I thought. This could get interesting…
It’s not quite Parliamentary etiquette for PMQ’s to commence with the playing of a bonkers but brilliant hyperlocal radio jingle. But then again Wivenhoe Town Council was never really a starched white-collar affair. How wonderful to hear a Radio Wivenhoe jingle being played in the chamber, ahead of a fine presentation from Jerry Davis, the Voice of the Colne’s Head Honcho, with a supporting role from Mr Mule:
Jerry addressed the Cllr’s:
“We are hopeful of gaining an FM community licence for Radio Wivenhoe. We are here this evening to ask you for your support. We are staffed voluntarily by local people who love to listen to radio, as well as to create content. Radio Wivenhoe is currently broadcasting online for sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. We are self-funding, with very generous support from Andrew Wheatley down at the Business Centre, as well as a growing number of local advertisers.”
I’m not sure if Jerry was the warm-up act for Mr Mule or the straight guy for the stooge. But this was no occasion for stand up comedy.
Mr Mule added:
“We would greatly appreciate it if Wivenhoe Town Council could rubber stamp Radio Wivenhoe and offer your support. The town has gained a radio station because of the internet. We are six months ahead of where we would have been without being able to broadcast online. We would love you to put up our broadcast schedule on the Town Council notice boards.
The station needs more speech presenters as well. Our demographic is for the more mature person. If anyone can make this work, then we can right here in Wivenhoe. This is a unique town with unique talents.”
Pitch performed, time for the feedback.
“VERY inspirational,” came the reply from Mayor Needham. Further platitudes were probably about to follow, until Mr Mule chipped in:
“We don’t get paid!”
The feeling was mutual.
Mayor Needham continued:
“We are behind all enterprises that support Wivenhoe. We will gladly place the schedules on the notice boards, and we would like to use the WTC website to help promote your fine work as well.”
Glowing endorsements for the Voice of the Colne followed around the top table.
I was rather hoping that each agenda item to follow would then be introduced with a Radio Wivenhoe jingle to set the scene. Finance and Planning has so many soundscape creative possibilities.
Instead we went straight into Reports from the County and Borough Councillors. If you want to try and imagine how this would sound in a 30 second audio format, try listening to the Shipping Forecast being read out in the style of a Greater Anglia train announcer.
…on the Greater Anglia train announcer.
It wasn’t so much a case of One of Our Councillors is Missing, but Four of our Five Councillors are AWOL. Slightly unfair again. As we approach the Ides of March and the forthcoming Colchester Borough Council elections for a seat in both the Quay and Cross wards, now is a busy time in the big boys and girls of proper politics.
The Colchester Labour group had a meeting over at the Town Hall, hence no Cllr Young (although she did submit a report,) and sadly no smiling Cllr Ford either. I’m not sure about the whereabouts of the blue rinse lot (not a metaphorical observation,) and at least one half of the Love Me I’m a Liberal lot from up at the Cross was in attendance, with the ever engaging Cllr Manning.
Much interest followed out of Cllr Young’s written report. In particular, there was concern that any *possible* Section 106 wonga from the proposed multi-tier car park at the University remains in Wivenhoe, rather than our nearby neighbours over in the St Andrew’s ward.
Cllr Young has proposed supporting the controversial planning application on campus, with the proviso that some of the S106 money is then made available to help fund the long-awaited cycle path between the town and gown junction.
As well as being the County representative for Wivenhoe at Essex County Council, Cllr Young is also… the ward councillor for St Andrew’s at CBC.
In the absence of Cllr Young, Cllr Manning clarified:
“The University boundary covers 85% of the Wivenhoe Cross ward. This means that 85% of any S106 money has to go towards Wivenhoe. St Andrew’s shouldn’t be able to touch this. The only people that can sign this off are Cllr Cory and myself [Cross ward Cllr's].”
Cllr Vaughan of WTC added an interesting observation:
“The University hasn’t tackled public transport issues before proposing to build the car park. Cllr Young has put pressure on the University to get funding for the cycle path as part of the car park planning application. This isn’t for Julie to decide – it is a Wivenhoe Cross issue.”
The written report from Cllr Young contained a further twist regarding the University’s announcement to close the popular Quayside Cafe down at the Hythe:
“The University are looking at keeping toilets open and installing a coffee machine to migate the loss of the cafe. Borough planners will not allow change of use to student accommodation until there are some alternative facilities available.
I tried to get the Institute to take on the Cafe as a training ground for students but they are not interested. At the moment it looks as though the cafe will close and it will be left empty, which is a terrible shame. Anyone who can think of a potential tenant who would give the cafe a go, please let me or Andrew Nightingale know.”
Contact has already been made, Comrades.
The location for a cycling cafe would be superb, midway from Sunny Colch out towards Wivenhoe. The student population would certainly fit the Guru’s market for evening entertainment that he has been successfully staging down at the Hidden Kiosks in town.
And just when you think you have finished with the woe that is one Cllr and the uncertainty that comes with the University and planning, whhaddya know – it’s only Cllr Manning and developments with our friends up on campus:
“It looks like the Knowledge Gateway re-submitted planning application for student accommodation will now go through. It is likely to include provision for two disabled parking bays.
I have called in the University’s car park planning application. I am busy working with local residents to see what they think of the development.”
And from one extreme of a seemingly untapped richness of source in funding that the University is fortunate to experience, right back down to the bottom of the fiscal food chain and the short change that Wivenhoe Town Council believes it has received from Colchester Borough Council.
Cllr Lodge asked Cllr Manning about any developments over the precept levels that have been slashed by CBC. The reply was slightly coded, but you get the message, Comrades:
“I am confident that a coalition of sorts will be in place in the Borough after the May local elections. I am not sure what colour this will be. Until this happens, we can’t make any statement.”
The final word, as ever, came from Mayor Needham:
“We feel strongly about the way that CBC has treated the towns and parishes. We have been short changed.”
Never argue with a man holding a B & Q mallet.
With all the political uncertainty at the Borough wide level, what we need is a return to the stability of the working life of a short changed town council. What we need is the Planning report.
Mr Mayor confirmed:
“We are not in favour of the application made to demolish the St John’s Ambulance Building. We have asked Cllr Ford to call this in. As a Town Council, we are very concerned about the proposed University car park.”
Better news down at Cooks, with the dingy park close to completion. Ideas as to what use WTC can make of the original Fisherman’s Store space are now being considered.
But perhaps the loudest HURRAH! heard in the short history of hit and miss blog posts covering Wivenhoe Town Council meetings was reserved for the confirmation that progress is finally in place for a new Health Centre for Wivenhoe.
Cllr Lodge declared:
“After fifteen years of campaigning, we are now coming close to having a new health centre being built. This is the most positive news that we have had. At long last we could see the new building being open in three years time.”
It has been quite a busy month when it comes to money for WTC. As well as hearing that the funds are now in place from the PCT to progress with the Health Centre, the council chequebook has been seeing some significant action itself.
Mayor Needham explained:
“We received a proposal to lend the Wivenhoe Diamond Jubilee Committee the sum of £2,000 up front. This is needed immediately to start planning. We hope to recover this money during Jubilee week with bucket shaking on the gate.”
WTC unanimously approved the request.
But what the good Cllr’s give away (sort of) they recoup in the form of grants. The William Loveless Hall [where else?] has been successful in applying and receiving a grant for £3,500. A new glitter ball isn’t about to be dangled from the ceiling of everyone’s favourite prefab style village hall; nope, instead the Gents are having something a makeover.
Which in these days of equality is rather decent to hear, seeing as though the women folk of Wivenhoe are now treated to a Five Star [eh?] William Loveless flushing experience whenever they go to powder their noses.
Cllr Lodge commented:
“I have been in the Ladies toilets [blimey] and very nice they are too. I would request however that we have no spotlights in the gents.”
Oooh, I don’t know. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
The slightly more serious subject of damage deposits for the William Loveless Hall was then approached. Debate on the Wivenhoe Forum has highlighted the practical problems that coughing up a tidy some of cash can present.
To the credit of Cllr Kraft and Cllr Hall, both agreed to listen and discuss some of the points raised on the Forum at the next Loveless Hall working party meeting.
The Estates Working Party reported that The Hub youth group are going to apply for a grant to put in place a new basketball court down at the Philip Road Centre. With the future of the Essex County Council building *possibly* being far from certain, this was viewed as “very encouraging” in that a commitment is being put in place.
The Community Opportunities Group fed back with details and plans following a recent meeting with @asset_transfer. There was also the formal confirmation that the cheque has now cleared for the purchase of the police houses and that the legal papers are ready to sign.
WTC has been asked for S106 assistance to cover a new tennis pavilion up at Broad Lane, goalposts at Lower Lodge and assistance with the Scout and Guide building. The proposal for a BMX facility at Henrietta Close, funded by S106 wonga, is on hold. This is not “fully supported” by all residents.
We then had the bonkers moment (there’s always one) when Mr Mayor passed on the information about the restrictions that Essex County Council is apparently putting in place when it comes to… bunting.
With much flag waving and decorations expected ahead of Brenda’s Big Day in June, ECC is concerned about the dangers of bunting.
Aren’t we all, Comrades.
Mr Mayor has fielded a phone call from a very patient @TheGazette journo, asking about WTC’s plans for Jubilee week. After the roll call of planned celebrations had been relayed (a Royal Ball at the William Loveless Hall [where else?] a Thanksgiving service at St Mary’s, a peeling of the church bells on bank Holiday Monday lasting from 8:30am until midday [BLIMEY! BLIMEY!] a Family Fun Day at the KGV including athletics, a hog roast, welly wanging, a tug of war, a brass band and a possible fireworks display) …the very patient Gazette journo then said yes, yes, but what about the bloody bunting?!
“We don’t want to bash ECC” Mr Mayor told the meeting. “This is another layer of work that we can well do without.”
And so no bunting, but bell ringing from 8:30am until midday. No logic, these H & S types…
Time to grit your teeth, time to talk about road gritting. Skid marks all round, etc.
Mr Mayor was full of praise for the two WTC groundsmen:
“We have our own areas of importance in the town that are crucial for the continuance of Wivenhoe. Doing the work ourselves was the only way to achieve this.”
Keeping with the DIY ethos and a tentative request has been made about the provision for “burial by the river.”
This was no laughing matter, but a half decent Two Ronnies sketch was then played out.
Back on dry land and a consultation has been received from CBC about the provision of street services. This was described by Mayor Needham as: “more of a statement than a consultation.”
A receipt of the consultation is now back in the post. No comments have been added.
This then led to a debate about updating the Town Plan. There was consensus that needs refreshing, but the agenda is heavy elsewhere (police houses, Jubilee, Cooks.) Plus The Localism Bill and its impact on communities is far from certain, both at a hyperlocal and national level. It was agreed that the Town Plan would be put on hold, until more clarity comes from The Localism Bill.
Not officially an agenda item, but a *cough* a wedding card was very kindly handed over on behalf of Wivenhoe Town Council to, well, to a hyperlocal hit and miss type resident.
Well I never.
Much appreciated by the bride, I hear.
Next month, Comrades…