Peter Whitfield’s speech, for SOS, warned Councillors at last night’s Special Combined Committee Meeting, precisely why “loss of parkland” cited by councillors themselves remains a major Knowle issue.
Here’s what he said:
This meeting is convened less than 24hours after last night’s Cabinet and you are confronted with vetting the biggest and most far-reaching decision that has faced this council for the past ten years. The sole item on the agenda for this meeting combining two key committees is to test the outcome from item 12 among 19 other items dealt with at that Cabinet. These two facts are a disgraceful abuse of procedure which I’m afraid, has become typical of this Council’s style.
However I will focus on the recent Appropriation and Disposal of Public Open Space notices, and especially on the incursion onto the upper terraces in front of the old hotel. This extension of the development boundary has never been debated by councillors despite it being raised on numerous occasions by the public. At the Council meeting of 24 July 2013 18 sets of minutes from 7 committees including four from the DMC were accepted. One of these was for their 18 July meeting which included the new development line. Those minutes were only put before council at the meeting so there is no chance that they could have been properly examined. Indeed an attempt at discussion was guillotined by Cllrs Cope and Bloxham proposing “ next business”.
It has been claimed that the revised drawing was approved by the Development Management Committee (DMC), and included in a consultation version of the draft local plan and at reference point 133 Strategy 26 there is indeed a marginal statement “Land allocation at Knowle for housing is shown to cover the footprint and the immediately abutting land of the council office”. The diagram illustrating this was in very small scale and very heavily shaded with brown diagonal lines which made it almost impossible to discern the building outline or to see how far into the abutting land the new boundary imposed.
On 20 August DMC met again to initiate final consultation on the Plan. On page 58 is the diagram with a comment “The site area at the current council office at Knowle has been amended to show a smaller area that reflects current development expectations.” This followed the refusal of the council’s own Outline Planning Application in March 2013, citing loss of parkland as a major issue.
The extant local plan at inset map 48 shows quite clearly protected land beginning at the building line of the old hotel. The draft local plan enlarging this area was thrown out by the Inspector and no new one has yet been out to consultation.
This meeting should “reflect the voice and concerns of the public” as required by the Overview & Scrutiny’s remit, and remove this added area from the land for appropriation and disposal.’
More on the same meeting on our earlier posts: