Thursday, 2 August 2007

Sleepwalking and shooting yourself in the foot.

Last week, in a friendly chat with one of our Labour councillors, he expressed the view that we were "sleepwalking towards a directly-elected mayor". Maybe it's because of the holidays, but so far, apart from a press article about the historical role of our traditional mayor, there has been very little heard from the "no" campaign. Is there even going to be a "no" campaign?

Most councillors (particularly Labour councillors, who fear losing their power to a non-Labour mayor) are opposed to the idea of a directly-elected mayor in Darlington, so, with the referendum less than two months away, you'd have thought they would have borne this in mind in yesterday's Planning Applications Committee. But not a bit of it!

The main argument being put forward by the supporters of a directly-elected mayor is that he or she would be more responsive to the wishes of the electorate. Among other cases, they quote the case of the White Horse Hotel and the support of Labour Councillors - against the wishes of local residents - for plans to redevelop it.

So, yesterday, when local residents vociferously opposed plans to create a new riverside path through their neighbourhood, what do the Labour Councillors on the Planning Committee do? They vote against the wishes of local people and approve the new path! Given the opportunity to delay the decision while they made a site visit, they decided to plough on regardless. Local opposition was flagged up well in advance of the meeting: they had the opportunity to placate local opposition, but pushed ahead anyway.

This is just the sort of Council decision that gave the petition group its impetus. Talk about handing your opponents a loaded gun!
Postscript: as is pointed out in the comments below, I haven't specified where this path is to be built, so here's a link to the Echo story.


miketually said...

Is this the path along the field from Mill Lane to Great Burdon? The one which will stop my family from riding from our house to my parents' house along this field, because the gates which are to be installed on the paths into the estate won't allow us past with our kiddie trailer! (Similar gates exist on several cycle paths in the town.)

I believe it's being built to allow funding to be gained to create a nature reserve along this field because funding cannot be obtained without the area being acessible to all users, rather that to fill a need for a bike path - the proposal for the path came from the countryside team, rather than the Council cycling people. A route using Mill Lane and the housing estate itself would be cheaper and useable at all times of the day, making it a useful route.

Mike Barker said...

That's the one, Mike.

Sounds like a failure to communicate with all interested parties, and a lack of joined up thinking.