We now have the official statement on behalf of ‘Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council’ and their reasons for declining the emergency funding request. A request that resulted from the need to fund a substantial increase in security which could not be foreseen during the planning of the event.
I have a few observations which I have annotated below in red: –
Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council town clerk, Olive O’Sullivan, said: “The town council is sorry to hear that the Boldmere Christmas Lights event has been cancelled.
The view expressed by committee was that the community grant in the Four Oaks, New Hall and Trinity wards should not be spent on an event in the Vesey ward, particularly when the other local centres would not have a festive light switch on event in their local areas. (What about the Gracechurch Centre? The other areas do not have an established event and the council just needed to increase the budget to overcome this issue. With over £1m in reserves of which £250k has come from Vesey Residents one would have thought this would not be a problem.)
If a local centre wanted to do something over and above what the town council is providing in terms of festive lights then that activity should be funded locally. (This suggests that the residents have no say in the matter. It also adds weight to the argument that the budget should be under the control of Ward Councillors and not an ‘Appointed Committee’ which is not representative of the wards. The Amenities Committee has 4 Trinity, 2 Four Oaks, 1 New Hall and 1 Vesey Councillor.)
The council appreciates that rising costs of road closures and stewarding for events means that the Boldmere Futures Partnership had to make some difficult decisions about the event.” (The decision by council left us no option but to cancel as the Councillors who are also members of the Boldmere Futures Partnership one of whom sits on the Amenities Committee were aware. The lack of empathy with the impact on Boldmere and the wider community who have supported the event for 5 years is disappointing)
For the sake of transparency here is the address and question which I put to Sutton Coldfield Town Council tonight. Unfortunately the time allowed was reduced from 3 minutes to 2 so I had to precis it for the meeting. The request to allow the Sutton Vesey Town Councillors and the Resident Groups to progress the matter was ignored and the BCC Landscapes consultation will go ahead on Mossy Bank and Boldmere Gate at a cost of some £2000. There will also be an online survey on the SCTC website. When you consider that the Cofield & Warden Road residents presented a survey with 169 signatures against Mossy Bank it makes you wonder why they are going to be canvassed again as part of the official consultation. Maybe the council is hoping for a different answer the second time around. Or are they hoping that the number of Boldmere residents who want a playground at Mossy Bank will out number those who live there – quite possible I suppose when you consider there are 360 pupils at the school. There will also be a public meeting at the Carpenters Arms at some point. A great shame that what started with a request for a ‘Pocket Playground’ for younger children in the heart of Boldmere has been hijacked.
Yesterday there was a flurry on Twitter when it was reported that Town Councillors had been in to Boldmere Junior School asking the pupils their thoughts on a new playground. This should have been answered immediately but with the 140 character limit you need to be clear and concise.
What does this mean? The School Pupil Council decided to hold a debate on whether the new playground should be located at ‘Mossy Bank’ and Carl agreed? What did they vote on – presumably whether the new playground should be at ‘Mossy Bank’ or ‘Boldmere Gate’? I am however assured that no Town Councillors attended. No doubt the outcome of this debate will be announced at some point. It was perhaps ill-advised to choose this topic as the children went home and told their parents and it escalated from there with concerned parents up in arms that their children have been dragged in to the issue. A number will be seeking clarification from Carl on Monday!
One final thought is that Bob Churn of BCC stated that in the consultation children would be consulted on what type of playground they would like, he did not indicate the choice of location would also be included. I wonder if this has somehow been misinterpreted.
At tonight’s Amenities Committee Bob Churn gave his report which indicated that a seven piece playground could go on Mossy Bank subject to BCC Planning Approval or Boldmere Gate subject to approval by Natural England. Boldmere Gate also has the potential to accommodate a much more ambitious plan subject to funding. Two Residents of Cofield Road/Warden Road voiced their objections to Mossy Bank due to Traffic, Parking, Anti-Social Behaviour and that there was not adequate oversight of the site which gives rise to child safety concerns. No resident objected to Boldmere Gate which could be approached on a phased basis starting with the seven piece unit and possibly attract funding from other sources for further development. At one point the committee nearly signed off on a motion to just pursue Mossy Bank, fortunately an amendment to the motion was passed by 4 votes to 2 that Boldmere residents should be consulted on both sites before a feasibility study was commissioned.
There is also the possibility that part of the Boldmere Adult Education site could be utilised. Projects of this nature should be community driven – unfortunately some committee members seem to have lost sight of this and that they are there to represent residents.
Attended the A.C.L.S meeting in the Town Hall tonight to hear the presentation by the Landscape Practice Group. It was apparent that Fir Tree Grove was likely to be ruled out as a possible location once all the regulatory and technical issues were evaluated – however, it deserved to be considered as part of the initial feasibility study along with Boldmere Gate and Mosse Bank so that the reasons why it was unsuitable could be independently established and explained to the Vesey residents. Instead, what looked like a pre-agreed decision, was voted through for no good reason in my view.
It was encouraging to hear that the initial consultation, once a site has been determined, would included the local schools to ascertain what type of equipment and activities the children would like to see on the site – after-all they are the ones who will use it. So often we wrongly assume as adults we know best!
Great to see that this project is firmly on the Town Council Agenda – it is long overdue. The families with school aged children in my area (Stonehouse Road) are very pleased and looking forward to being consulted on their preferred location. It is important that all views are considered together with the logistics of running such an activity – there is more involved than the pure asset transfer. The capitol budget of £50,000 looks a little light and there appears to be no figures for the annual running costs in the papers I have seen. Also, I am sure parents would want some input in to the design of the playground once the location is agreed.