Thursday 20 December 2012

Games Makers Choir - Single

Games Makers were one of the surprise hits of this year's Olympics, showing off a face of Britain that helped change perceptions about our Nation and playing a vital role in the smooth running of both the Olympics and Paralympics. 

Some of the Gamesmakers have formed a choir and are releasing a christmas single. Personally I think it would be fabulous if one of the surprise hits of the Olympics created a surprise hit at Christmas.  Can I please urge everyone to think about buying it. 

Anyone that knows my musical taste will be fully aware that I would not normally touch this sort of music (not enough guitar!!) - but I will be making an exception for this.   The profits from the single will be used to help provide funding for aspiring athletes.

Friday 14 December 2012

Supermaket latest - and some personal claification

Some of you have probably read that Sainsbury have given Fenland District Council a list of tasks which it wants them to comply with, alongside a threat of legal action if they do not comply.  These tasks include:

“Acknowledge that the decision to grant Sainsbury’s (subsequently ratified on 19th
September) and refuse Harrier on 29th August remain valid.”

The suggestion that this is going to court and is going to cost Council Tax payers money is something that I take no pleasure in – although I have been predicting that this whole dispute would end up in court for a number of years.

Unfortunately, I have also felt that this outcome was inevitable as soon as the proposed solution to rehear both planning applications was decided upon – and I made that view clear to Fenland District Council, it is not helped by the fact that no-one seems to understand what is legally wrong with the Sainsbury decision; providing absolute clarity about why an additional meeting was needed would help everyone – especially the general public.

I also want to make sure there is clarity about where I stand on these applications.  Be in no doubt that I believe that the Sainsbury application with the Country Park is what the majority of Whittlesey residents want, but more than that, I believe it is clearly the best planning application.   However, I am also sensible enough to understand that there are those that have a different view to mine and that a decision to support a Tesco store is a possibility.  Whatever decision is made in the end, I want Whittlesey people to be absolutely confident in the motives for that decision, that whatever the outcome it is for all the right reasons.  At the moment I do not believe that confidence can exist, that gap in understanding is the big issue at the moment.  You only have to read the comments on various social networking sites to see the suspicions that are out there.  I have to say that, unfortunately, the decision to rehear the applications in Wisbech St Mary rather than Whittlesey only adds to those suspicions; it is a mistake and I make no apologies for the fact that I have argued hard at Fenland for the proposed January meeting to be held I Whittlesey; I make absolutely no apologies for standing up for Whittlesey in this mess, it’s what I am here to do.

Please do not mistake the fact that I am being strong on this matter as meaning that I will do anything for a Sainsbury approval. Yes, I support the Sainsbury applicaton, but I am big enough and ugly enough to know that Councillors sometimes don’t get their way.  What I am being robust about is the need for clarity, the need for a strong decision and ta decision that Whittlesey people can be confident in.

Immediately after this situation turned into a mess in September, I requested that Fenland District Council call in the Local Government Ombudsman to investigate the affair, to get underneath it and to make clear exactly what happened and why and then use that investigation as a basis for moving forwards.  I still cannot see how a planning meeting can be held to re-hear these applications when people genuinely don’t know exactly what happened to create the problem, don't know why both applications need to be reheard and whilst there is still an air of suspicion around the whole affair.

The first step in this process should always have been to provide absolute clarity. Regretfully, I do not feel we are anywhere close to a point where we can say we have it.

Friday 7 December 2012

B1040 - Wash Road latest

I know many people are speculating about when the B1040 might re-open and, more importantly, will be concerned by the state of the road.

So I thought I would cut and paste what our Highways Officers have said today about it:

At present the waters are receding, however it is anticipated that water levels will not drop sufficiently until middle of next week to enable the road to be inspected and repairs carried out prior to re-opening - providing we have no more rainfall.

We anticipate from experience some carriageway repairs will be required ( potholes etc ) and that we will require lorries / JCB etc and road sweeper to clear the debris. I anticipate this will take 1 day ( perhaps more depending on the works required the extent of which are currently not known ).
Whilst I would prefer it to be open immediately it is clear, I suspect that one day is better than how it might look, so I think it's important to put this out there.  However, it is also worth warning that things could be worse after the road has been re-examined and it might take longer.

Meeting With Officers at Fenland District Council

I had an extremely useful meeting with a couple of Officers at Fenland District Council today.  Given that I have been critical in the past and have been extremely challenging of them, I think it is only right that I say the positive stuff.

One of the things we did today was go through the timeline of what happened between the planning meeting of 29th August and the meeting of 19th September to discuss the actions officers took and, in particular, what they did after being notified of the error in the Tesco planning report (which they were notified of on 5th September).

It is a conversation I probably should have had some months ago and it is pretty clear to me, that even though I don't agree with everything that happened, it was for absolutely the best of intentions and, most importantly, was done with clear legal advice.

I still don't like what has happened, and I have said that I will continue to be challenging over the supermarkets issue.  But if I am critical in public and in private (which I have been) - then it is important I make sure that I put some of the positives out in the public domain - and I think it is important my view following my discussion of this morning is made public.

Monday 3 December 2012

A Conspiracy Theorist's Delight

On Thursday of last week I got a response from a couple of the challenges I have put in to Fenland District Council about the ongoing supermarkets saga. I was away in Wales over the weekend and spent some of the time mulling over what to say or do about the information I received because I suspect putting it out is going to cause a reaction - in the end I decided it needed to be published.

One of the issues I have been passionate about getting to the bottom of was when exactly Officers at Fenland District Council knew there was a mistake on their report for the Tesco application that was discussed and refused at the Whittlesey planning meeting on 29th August.   This is really important because it was the basis for turning over the refusal and the subsequent (constitutionally questionable) approval of the Tesco application on 19th September.  Members were never officially notified beforehand by officers - it was Tesco who sent the planning committee an email the evening before 19th September.  Of course, if officers knew beforehand it would raise all sorts of questions - not least why members were allowed to go into that meeting blind to the facts and without officer comment and couldn't a more sensible strategy have been devised.  Well, it seems that Officers at Fenland District Council were made aware of that mistake somewhere around 5th September, two weeks before the controversial planning committee - plenty of time to plan an alternative and sensible strategy. As some could guess, I am not happy.  Officers will argue that they acted on legal advice, but I cannot help thinking that the "do nothing" approach is a factor with the problems we face - and one that should have been made public before now.

Last week I also sent an email to Fenland challenging the way they had handled the 44 complaints that have been received about the supermarket situation.  Fenland have confirmed that "

"further information has been provided to a number of complainants where we are aware that they did not recieve full material, making clear what the process and next steps are in terms of the complaints procedure."
What this means is that some of the complainants were not advised at the time their complaint was dealt with as to how they would progress things further if they weren't happy with the response - something that should be done routinely.  I am going to follow this up with a few more questions, but given that the end stage of this complaints process is a potential referral to the Local Government Ombudsman, something many know I would welcome, you can see why I am annoyed.

The trouble with both of the issues I have raised here is that they are a conspiracy theorist's delight - there are those who are making all sorts of accusations about all sorts of people and these facts emerging help that speculation rather than end it, that is one of the reasons I thought twice about putting them into the public domain.  However, the flip side is that I also know that there are many, many Whittlesey people that want (and deserve) to know the truth, and it reinforces to me that we cannot rehear these applications (if that is what happens) until there is a clear understanding of what has gone wrong and why.  Whittlesey residents must have confidence in whatever decision happens at the end of this mess; they must not be left with a supermarket that people will point a mistrusting finger at every time they see it.  We need some sort of inquiry.

Of course, I can keep asking questions until the whole truth emerges - the problem with that approach is that it sends all the wrong messages and, of course, I can't say I know all of the right questions to ask (and I keep upsetting people by trying to find out the truth!!)