Friday, 9 October 2009

Other stuff at Cabinet

As is always the case apart from at budget time, Cabinet is where all the interesting and important stuff is decided: though, of course, nothing is really decided there, it's just a run-through in public of decisions already made. It does, though, give the opposition parties the chance to air their views and hopefully get some publicity for ourselves and also for members of the public to address senior councillors and officers.

These opportunities were well illustrated at Tuesday's Cabinet.

First up on the agenda was a petition from residents of Albert Hill calling on the Council to do something to stop the opening of a residential half-way home for psychiatric patients in their street. Unfortunately, since under planning law there was no change of building use involved, the operators of this home did not have to apply for change of use planning permission so there were no grounds on which the Council could object to these plans.

Two women from the area addressed the Cabinet, a process which one of them admitted was daunting. Nevertheless, they both spoke eloquently and passionately - without notes - and argued their case extremely well. The Leader of the Council and Chief Executive both listened sympathetically and responded accordingly. In the end, though, to their obvious disappointment - "So you're not going to do anything to help us, then?" - the women had to accept that the Council was unable to help.

Cllr Nick Wallis tried to sooth their anger by suggesting that the Council might propose something next year as part of the Sustainable Communities Act process which would call for legislation to increase local authorities' rights to intervene in this sort of proposal. Unfortunately for the Labour Group, much of the women's anger was directed at their Labour ward councillors who, they said, had done nothing at all to support or help their residents.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case, I do believe it is unacceptable that the only recourse which local people have in a case like this is the gathering of a petition. There should be legislation which guarantees local people's rights to be consulted when changes like this are proposed in local communities.

The value of speaking in Cabinet for the opposition parties was well illustrated by the massive local press coverage my call for Cllr Williams to resign over the Pedestrian Heart scandal received.

During the meeting I also spoke about plans for the Council to make land available at Blackwell Meadows for Darlington College to build two new sports pitches to replace those which would be swallowed up by the new Central Park University buildings. I pointed out that the town was short of playing pitches and that more was needed than just a like-for-like replacement. I also asked that the Council use its best endeavours to ensure that the College's football pitches were made available for wider community use.

I also spoke in support of changes to the Council's cycling strategy which should finally see the completion of the cycle route running from the town centre right up to Harrowgate Hill. I welcomed the imminent completion of the John Street link, not least because it will make my rides up to North Road ward both safer and more enjoyable. I also welcomed the proposal to introduce forward stopping lines for cyclists at some junctions, though I pointed out that this should have been done already at the Greenbank Road/Woodland Road junction when that was re-designed last year. I asked that the Darlington Cycling Campiagn be consulted about which junctions should be selected for these improvements.

There was also discussion about the Food Festival, which I might blog about separately!

2 comments:

miketually said...

"the completion of the cycle route running from the town centre right up to Harrowgate Hill. I welcomed the imminent completion of the John Street link, not least because it will make my rides up to North Road ward both safer and more enjoyable."

My ride to work too. Excellent news, though hopefully it won't be used as a reason to do nothing on North Road (I certainly won't be using it after dark or when icy).

"I also welcomed the proposal to introduce forward stopping lines for cyclists at some junctions, though I pointed out that this should have been done already at the Greenbank Road/West Auckland Road junction when that was re-designed last year."

West Auckland Road = Woodland Road?

We've been asking for ASLs since the start of the Cycling Demo Town project, but have repestedly been told that it's not possible. Not a surprise that something we ask for but are told can't happen suddenly happens a few years later though.

"I asked that the Darlington Cycling Campiagn be consulted about which junctions should be selected for these improvements."

Thanks Mike.

Mike Barker said...

It is indeed Woodland Road Mike: corrected above.
The Cabinet paper on this issue can be viewed here:
http://www.darlington.gov.uk/PublicMinutes/Cabinet/October%206%202009/Item%208c.pdf
Sometimes you just have to keep plugging away until someone realises it's a good idea! Not that you'd ever get the credit, though!