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Malcolm Robinson

Councillor Robinson - August 2018

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August 2018.

First official meeting in August and it’s at Corbridge.  It’s actually a strategic planning site visit with the planning meeting tomorrow night.  Another load of houses with associated planning matters but for once nice to see a designated drop off and pick up point for the adjacent school on the plans.   Seems we do allow these sometimes, a point taken and espoused by one of the Labour members on the committee!!!!!!

Anyway after walking the fields for a couple of hours and with some of my questions answered, others for tomorrow night, it was a quick drive back to Bedlington to see some people here.

Several people been in touch today and some very interesting projects outlined.  I will certainly try to help in any way I can.

Off up to County Hall in good time for the strategic planning meeting.  I wanted to see another councillor up there but he had tendered his apologies for the meeting so I presume is on holiday.

The meeting started and again a packed public gallery.  First up was an application for what is in essence an extension to the Haggerton Caravan Park.  Most of the issues had been dealt with and we supported the application unanimously.

I couldn’t help but think about the recent Alnwick Gardens application we supported and the potential these two venues create to back up our need for modernising the main road, the A1.  Both will result in increased traffic I have no doubt.

The second application was the Corbridge one and after the officer gave us more information as well as a written update, which we all had to hastily read through, I had several questions.  I saved my response until we debated the application at the end of this application just before the vote and after it had been proposed and seconded.  After members had said they thought the application had been thoroughly worked through my turn came.

I said I was of a different opinion and gave my reasons.  There were several outstanding issues, which I had asked about during questions and the answers all came back that they were being worked on.  I also pointed out the fact that there was a current public consultation being held which didn’t close until after a few days’ time.  This had been referred to in the papers we had received to examine for this application.   One paragraph in particular stated that depending on the result of this consultation and if a hitherto unidentified ‘material consideration’ was identified our decision now might not be upheld.   I said that taking all of these into consideration I didn’t think we had enough “Factual” information to make a decision and even though I thought the scheme was probably the best use of the land, apart from the absolutely crazy access road which we had not got to consider as it had already been passed at the outline stage, for these reasons I would be abstaining from the vote.  The head of planning didn’t like that but said I was perfectly entitled to that decision.

The vote came and all other members voted for it with only my abstention due to insufficient information.

Next came the Bedlington application.  This concerned a business on the Barrington Road Industrial Estate and one which we had previously turned down.   Previously most of us had objected to the increased hours wagons would be using the roads and estates but this had now been dropped out of the application and there was now no increased traffic asked for.  There was quite a loud dissent heard from the public gallery when the members started saying they would be supporting the application now.  Interestingly it was mainly the Labour members who did this.  For me this shows planning isn’t being used as the usual political football and members are applying themselves without fear or favour.

For me there was quite a surreal moment when one of the objectors in his address actually quoted from this Blog.  Nice to know someone is reading it and the member sitting next to him and advising was none other than one of our local political party officials.  Maybe this is now required reading for the local Labour group?

Back to the business in hand and I was again the last member to speak, this time I fully supported the application for three main reasons.   Firstly the increased traffic hours had been quashed, secondly the other improvements and changes were all within the applicants business premises and seeing as that was on an established industrial estate what’s wrong with the owner trying to maximise his potential return on investment, that’s something we should support if we can, notwithstanding the jobs there, and lastly I had read through the conditions attached to this application and with 25 conditions, most with subsections across 4 pages,  I was happy that most of the issues raised had been addressed or could be through these conditions if needed.  I did say monitoring might be a problem but that wasn’t something in our remit to question.

The vote came and it was unanimously agreed.  Course that wasn’t what the members of the public wanted to hear and again more vociferous dissent could be heard.  As one member said later, if you want to be popular don’t go on a planning committee!  If only people would realise that they have to come up with these ‘material considerations’ because we are not allowed to consider anything else by law!

After the meeting I had several things I wanted to ask the head planner about but she immediately thought I would be having a go about the lack of information which I had complained about.   Not so and after a brief exchange about that, where I think we both agreed in the end, I raised the local points I wanted her to look into which she agreed to do.

Looking at my latest emails it looks like the planners are taking things tougher now.

Monday and after a tough weekend I have several calls to make and letters to write.  I managed to get them all done by lunchtime.

Some of these did the trick straightway others went off in all sorts of directions.

One of them was something I have been working on with others for the last few months and I wasn’t best pleased that it might not happen.  Hopefully that has now been sorted and we will see our youngest kids playing their football on a new pitch soon!

I did make a request about community funding to planning and the answer that came back left me speechless.  I was under the assumption that all planning for houses carried its own obligations for community payback but it seems that’s not the case?  Seems only 5 applications can be used for community payback and we have had ours?  That’s just plain daft and that’s the exact words I used in my reply!

The tenders have come back for the new play equipment for Plessey Woods and I have meetings to go through them.  Hope we can get some real exciting stuff in there!

I have been advising lots of community groups how they can better access funding.  I hope we will see much better take up of funding routes by them all now and for once Bedlington will start to get its fair share!

Seems August is a quiet month for the routine NCC business but in our case that just means we get to lobby and attend meetings for our Town’s benefit.  One of the things that I and the other Independent councillors for Bedlington have been pushing is the Town Centre redevelopment and at last that is back on track.  We have seen one announcement but there is much more to come very soon.  The whole redevelopment is listed for detailed planning at our next Strategic planning meeting early next month and until that’s heard we are bound by confidentially and not predetermining an application.

Just had the last meeting to determine who gets the Plessey Woods play area contract and it’s been a hard decision.  We had around a dozen tenders to go through and each one was weighed against a set scoring card.  Eventually it came down to about 3 and then they were revisited and assessed again.  Thankfully one came through and I think we were all pretty much convinced it was the better tender.   So over the next couple of months there should be some pretty exciting play equipment and upgrades to Plessey.   Having gone through a similar process for the Town Council and its 2 play park complete upgrades the behind the scenes work it surprisingly difficult and exacting.   Just so considering the money which is being spent.

I have to make mention of my almost incessant contact with our planning enforcement team.  I am very concerned with the way some developers and behaving and this has culminated in me listing a question about ‘conditions’ at the next full council.

Well it seems having voiced an opinion about the current election for WBTC I am being rebuked for not seeing it as an example of democracy in action.  Seems a bit ironic getting reprimanded for my take on local democracy off people who have never been elected but isn’t that the way of these things?   At some point I hope we start to realise gang culture is wrong in all sorts of fields!

That’s all I can write about August really because it has been categorised by a large swell of constituents getting in touch rather than the normal NCC business which I do try and report.

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40 minutes ago, rosco said:

So when would you hope the Town Centre redevelopment gets started

According to the "Investing in Bedlington" website : "Subject to there being no challenges to the tender process we should be able to award a contract in August or the first week in September with mobilisation on site in the weeks that follow"

 

That's a wonderful non-statement which effectively means "not before the 2nd week in September", so it could be next week or it could be in 2 years or any time in the future.

Fingers crossed it is imminent as now more than 3 years since Arch acquired the land.

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I cant answer that before tomorrow!  The project is up for detailed planning tonight and putting up an answer might look to be predetermining the application because I sit on the planning committee.  

 

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