To the Town Council Office! …on Monday evening, along with half of Wivenhoe it seems.
Y’see the thing about all of this online engagement is that it is incredibly optimistic for offline democracy. Which sounds like some sort of Third Way twaddle that you would expect from Mr Tony.
Put simply: Get folk talking about what is happening around you and they will show an interest. Which led us to the Town Council Office on a miserable Monday evening, and standing (or was it sitting on the carpet?) room only?
I clocked seventeen members of the public in the chamber before Madam Mayor declared that there is no more room at the Inn.
[Edit: 16th October, 10:30am. Cllr Kraft has asked for the following to be inserted:
"You could say Madam Mayor stopped the meeting, got out of her chair and looked for more seating for the visitors and made sure they were seated before the meeting restarted (I missed the person on the floor, very small)"]
Plus Cllr Jon Manning and Smiling Cllr Steve Ford of Colchester Borough Council, @essexwill of The Gazette and PCSO Louise Neville – there to update on police matters, and *not* to keep law and order inside.
Glad we cleared that one up.
And so shortly after 7:30pm and it was evening all from Madam Mayor.
Not *quite* all – Cllr’s Bob Needham and Ian Endean sent their apologies, along with Cllr Julie Young of Essex County Council and Cllr’s Cyril Liddy and Mark Cory of CBC.
We wouldn’t have fitted you in anyway, Comrades.
No Written Notice from Members of the Public were submitted. Which meant that we could all bugger off back to base and catch the closing credits of Eastenders.
Madam Mayor stated:
“Under the circumstances I propose to change the agenda.”
Ahh, and what circumstances might they be, Madam Mayor?
POTHOLES had been temporarily replaced by the small matter of a new Health Centre. Have you seen the size of the proposed site down at Cook’s?
An email was received earlier in the afternoon from residents asking questions of WTC. Madam Mayor agreed for these to be read out and answered where possible.
But adding a little extra information to the Realise Health U-turn was the written report from Cllr Young:
“The decision to switch sites for the Health Centre came as a huge shock. Unfortunately despite Realise Health being asked to contact Borough and County Councillors by CBC planning officers I am still waiting. This has not been handled well and something as important as this needs much better community consultation. Since hearing of the shift in site I have been in communication with Mr Gooch [land owner] who has indicated his surprise about the turn of events and that his site is still available.”
Which more or less is what the Gazette reported last Friday.
“Finally there is the issue of the pharmacy, unless things have changed there has to be a minimum distance between premises so if a pharmacy goes to Cooks shipyard the existing pharmacy would have to close. This will impact on the other business units as shoppers generally use the other shops when visiting the pharmacy. It will also take a very valuable facility away from Wivenhoe Cross ward.”
Good point, well made (via letter…)
Madam Mayor (or the Lady Mayoress as the Nu Hyperlocal Lovely Meeja Tart put it…) then kindly read out the questions put forward by residents, and then attempted to answer:
Q. Why and when did the fire station scheme fall through, what was the nature of the difficulties and who pulled the plug?
A. “We don’t know.”
Q. When did RHL first identify the new location, and what legal stage is the Cook’s deal at? For example, have any plans and / or architect’s drawings for Cook’s Yard been submitted to any planning authority? If so on what date?
A. “We have no input. We have not seen any plans.”
Q. What other sites have been discounted by RHL, and why?
A. “WTC suggested other sites. Realise Health discounted these. We don’t know why.”
Q. What proposals do RHL have for traffic management? For example, has the impact of additional pedestrian and vehicular traffic to and from Cook’s been researched and will free parking be available for vehicular traffic? Can a bus route be created to the proposed site?
A. “We don’t know.”
Q. Has a survey ever been done into the demographic make-up of Wivenhoe / Alresford / Elmstead Market so that the location of most frequent users of the Health Centre (e.g. the elderly) can be identified?
A. “This is down to Realise Health.”
Q. There are concerns that if a decision is not made the Centre could be lost. If this view is held by the WTC, please could they explain who told them and what reasons were given.
A. “Realise Health told us this. No reason was given.”
Cllr Andrea Vaughan added:
“An application needs to be submitted by Realise Health in October.”
Which is a timeframe that suggests high blood pressure all around.
Resident Tim thanked Madam Mayor for answers, and then observed:
“We have heard a lot of don’t knows. Will we be able to get answers at the public meeting on 30th October?”
Madam Mayor replied:
“I hope so. Only Realise Health can answer. All of the points that you have raised are our fears too. Realise Health told us on 15th August that they would organise a public meeting. They didn’t. People don’t realise [ha, ha] how little influence we have. We could be against the Cook’s site and they can still push ahead. We don’t know why they have pulled out of the Fire Station site. We were amazed when we read The Gazette article.”
But for every problem there is hopefully a solution. Step forward Cllr Kevin Read of WTC, putting forward the motion:
“I would like to suggest a site: 81 – 83 High Street [old police houses] could be a successful site. WTC purchased these because we have the vision to give a civic centre to the town. They are a similar size to the proposed Cook’s site and they are on a public transport route. I propose that we look at the site.”
All those in favour?
A bit of a blink and you’ll miss it moment to be honest, but definitely NOT a unanimous decision. I clocked Cllr Neil Lodge not raising his hand. Against and abstentions were not called upon.
Minutes next month, Comrades.
Further questions from the sitting / standing / crouching residents of Wivenhoe followed:
Q. Were you led to believe that it was Cook’s or nothing?
Madam Mayor: “Yes we were.”
Q. Have you considered the Cedric’s site?
Cllr Brian Sinclair: “I ‘heard’ that the Co-op is interested in purchasing Cedric’s. I found out that they are. I went to see the Practice Manager at the surgery and asked about a partnership with the Co-op. I was told that it wouldn’t work.”
Q from the Smiling Cllr Steve Ford: “Can we ask Bernard Jenkin about this at the Civic Service on Sunday?”
Madam Mayor answered: “Councillors can ask him.”
And invited guests one would hope – especially so after a couple of glasses of bolly back at the Willy Loveless Hall.
Chin chin, Bernie.
Q. Have the residents of Alresford and Elmstead been told about the public meeting?
Madam Mayor: “We will look into this.”
A final thought (sort of) came from Cllr Lodge:
“I believe that we should be doing what we are doing. We are putting questions to Realise Health. I spoke with Mr Gooch and the surgery. A lot of things are being put around. It is now out in the open. I am pleased that it is now in the open. Maybe Mr Gooch will turn up at the meeting – he has been invited.”
And that was yer lot when it comes to the Wivenhoe Health Centre U-turn. A feeling of guarded optimism ended this session, with residents and councillors more or less united on a stand against Realise Health.
Fighting talk, and to be fair, a well-handled meeting by WTC, albeit a little bit of a tight squeeze. Nice meeting you btw, Madam…
But a Wivenhoe Town Council meeting is not a Wivenhoe Town Council meeting unless POTHOLES, dog pooh and car parking gets a mention.
Racing down the rest of the agenda in something of an After the Madam Mayoress’ [OUCH] Show…
Smiling Cllr Steve Ford of CBC offered his monthly update:
“The Wivenhoe Local List has now been formally adopted by CBC. Any planning applications on the buildings must now consider the List.”
Cllr Jon Manning of Wivenhoe Cross ward was next to update:
“I have been busy as Chair of the local Governors up at Broomgrove School. We now have a new Deputy Head. I have also been dealing with the usual dog mess [*not* related.] My main focus this month has been on the University and the cycle path. There is a deafening silence from Highways.”
And the prospect of possibly hearing that pin drop is about to increase, what with the U-turn on the Health Centre.
Time we had a toilet joke?
Cllr Cyril Liddy sent in a bog standard written report:
“I was honoured to attend the opening of the new toilet block.”
Where the big knobs hang out, etc.
But back to Planning and back to Cook’s.
Cllr Read added:
“We are getting towards the end of the development [residential, not health.] We went on a tour of the Fisherman’s Store and the toilets. The cost to decorate the toilets will fall upon WTC.”
“The Dingy Park is over-subscribed. I’d like to invite Madam Mayor to draw sixteen names out of the hat.”
Cllr Asa Aldis commented on the Cook’s car park:
“This is complicated. Essex County Council takes any income from fines from Colchester Borough Council. We are looking at buying second hand parking meters.”
To match the second hand cars…
But it was back to the Health Centre with Cllr Brian Sinclair adding:
“I asked our grounds men to measure the size of the proposed new site down at Cook’s and the size of the old police station plot. The police station land is slightly bigger.”
Is that a truncheon in your pocket Mr Realise Health?
It all comes at a cost of course. Cllr Lodge updated over Finance matters:
“CBC has taken away all of our grant. We need to either readjust or put up the precept. CBC has written to confirm that there is £2,000 per Borough councillor available to spend.”
Cllr Read suggested that CBC was “alluding” that the Jubilee ward purse is used to make up the shortfall. You break our legs and we say thank you when you offer us crutches [CBC, *not* WTC...]
Back to the Willy Loveless Hall and confirmation that the new Gents toilets will be open for the Civic Service this Sunday. Here’s hoping that Bernard Jenkin will be around to do the honours.
WHERE THE BIG KNOBS HANG OUT blah, blah, blah.
A slightly complex matter over the rent agreement at the Montessori. It seems that a fire survey was carried by a CBC Officer who has now left, leading to WTC having to wait to carry out a similar survey.
Like I said – slightly complex, and slightly late in the evening.
The good PCSO Louise Neville updated over Community and Police matters:
“A resident has asked me to look into the vandalism at Meredith Close. This road has yet to be adopted. I referred the matter to Bovis Homes. It is up to them if they want to file a report.
My Inspector and Chief Inspector have been briefed over recent disturbances at Gothic House. We are going to have the Safer Colchester team back in Wivenhoe. They will liase with residents and the neighbours and be a very visible presence. Two men were taken into custody last night.”
And finally Bernard Jenkin has written to WTC asking for an update.
Over what, I hear you ask?
Nope, the 20mph speed restrictions for Lower Wivenhoe.
You try speeding down there with an ambulance, Bernie Boy.
See you all next month.