Letter to cllrs re Thomas Street

Cllrs  Allport, Slater, Taylor.

As you are aware proposals have been made to dispose of a number of GREEN SPACES throughout the Borough and this has caused considerable distress and vociferous objection from local residents.
This resulted in, among many other activities, the obtaining of signatures for petitions against such a sale.  This activity alone amounted to carrying out a survey of local people and obtaining their views.  Residents throughout The Borough did not want their GREEN SPACES disposed of.  This was a common theme throughout The Borough and has been articulated by “The Resident Leads” from each of the sites under threat.  We have collectivelly decided to contact our individual Ward Councillors to seek their continued support in our campaign and in effect stand up and be counted.

This is our first glimpse into the workings of local politics and we are sad to say it has not always been a happy experience.  Although we came into the campaign a little later than some of the others it soon became apparent that the process had not been open and transparent as we would have expected but there had been decisions made behind closed doors.  We believed by this time, as the result of a public back lash, this had been resolved and the whole process had been put into the public domain. Unfortunately this does not appear to be the case and it’s apparent that manipulations are being orchestrated behind the scenes and we are not being told all the truth

In the first instance, for a number of reasons, it seemed likely that The Scrutiny Panel would be hand picked.  There have been a number of objections to the selection and it appears that this problem was overcome by certain changes.

We then had the situation where prior to the site visits being carried out by “The Panel” the instructions were “No discussion on planning or we reserve the right to terminate the meeting”  Here at TALKE the majority of residents consulted are of the opinion that plans are already afoot to build multi storey dwellings on the land and that is why there should be no discussion on planning.  They also believe that more of the land than stated would be gobbled up.

After careful research we find that The Thomas Street Site.  Is in fact two sites.  One above Thomas Street SHLAA reference 160 and the other below SHLAA reference 159.  On completion of The SHLAA in October 2010 it was determined that 160 was suitable for development (debatable) BUT the larger area 159.  WAS NOT. In February this year a rough sketch was put through a few letter boxes showing that part of 159 ( NOT SUITABLE) had been attached to 160 and collectivelly called THOMAS STREET.

We have tried (without success) as have members of “The Scrutiny Panel” to find out who authorised the change of status of the “UNSUITABLE” land.  The best we have managed to get is the following reply from “The Landscape Manager”
“I am not aware of any report by us or of any CABINET consultation regarding The Thomas Street Site.  This is a site which we did not put forward for development-it was proposed by Planning through The SHLAA and we RELUCTANTLY agreed to a small portion of it being developed as long as we could retain the majority of it.  However, it is not required to meet the adopted standards for green space so it can be defined as surplus to requirements/operational needs in this sense.
On the 13th June 2011 we sent a written request via F.O.I. Act for details of who were the authors of the description “Not suitable” and who overturned it.  No reply to date although we were promised a reply within 20 days.

We don’t personally know the Landscape manager but her use of the word RELUCTANTLY conveys the impression that her department
was co-erced into agreeing to the disposal against their better judgement which is not surprising because it appears to us that the whole of this area of land is necessary to satisfy the ingredients of the local standards.  The GREEN SPACE STRATEGY is 312 pages long and is accompanied by various other publications and maps.  The local standard that springs to mind is the one that dictates there should be a local park within 400 metres of each household.  Without this land we haven’t got one.

On Wednesday 6th July together with other residents we attended a Scrutiny Meeting in The Civic Offices.  After a presentation by Mr. Roger TAIT we left completely bewildered.  He obviously doesn’t live in the real world where GREEN SPACES are a subject matter.  He dictated from an already published document which outlined The Strategy.  Produced plans which we had never seen, in spite of visiting Kidsgrove Town Hall and Newcastle Library, on numerous occasions, to inspect the documents lodged there.  He blindly followed the dictates
of  “The Green Space Network” showing complete ignorance of local needs and conditions.

He spoke of imaginary times it would take for residents to walk to various sites.  He refered to maps showing either land that was impossible to get onto without campons or a machette or land that was well out of the catchement area.  He mentioned Clough Hall and Bathpool Parks as if they were a gently stroll away.  Ignoring the fact that both would, under normal circumstances, mean getting the car out.
More pollution. Ah well.  They’re only a mile away.

The fact is our land is the only land that satisfies, if nothing else, “The Stategy” It’s local, it’s accessible, it’s safe, it’s clean and attractive, it’s well used, it’s vandal and litter free, it’s at the gateway to The Borough and seen by thousands every day. It’s used by people from outside the area as well as locals. It’s ideally situated to mitigate the atmospheric pollution produced by the busy A34.  Any development on any part of this”UNSUITABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT LAND”would effectively destroy the whole.  Developments are already planned for West Avenue, Linley Trading Estate, Imperial Works, Talke Club and Hill Top School.
Do we really need any more?

We hope that you recognise the importance of these OPEN SPACES and support our campaign.

Stand up and be counted.
There is a Council Meeting scheduled for the 28th July and we are requesting a “recorded vote” when the final scrutiny report is voted on this date.
This we understand necessitates 17 councillors standing up collectivly stating they want a recorded vote
The seven groups are contacting their ward councillors to establish if they have their support or otherwise.  Either way would you confirm your response via email so we can have a record of it.

Fred and Sylvia Moore