Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
Listen to the MTF Board Member on the morning after the Bus Station Parish Poll....
Last Thursday (22nd Sept) saw the delayed Moving Thetford Forward Board meeting take place - it was originally scheduled for early September, but was put back to consider the implications of the Thetford Parish Poll that occurred on the 9th August. I really wasn't sure what to expect from the meeting, would they eat humble pie after the poll and concede that the public wanted the bus station to stay where it is, or would they dismiss the poll entirely? What happened however surprised me. We first heard from a senior finance officer at Breckland Council who outlined the financial risks associated with changing the decision. I expected this to be quite doom and gloom - "we'd lose a fortune if we now didn't move the bus station" - but that was not the case. A lot of the costs incurred could be recouped, so from a financial sense, the MTF board could have changed their mind and kept the bus station where it is. What happened next though was fascinating; up got a senior transport officer from Norfolk County Council, and the architect employed to develop proposals for the Minstergate bus station and regeneration proposals for the current Bridge Street site. They flashed up the two proposals that the 'No' campaign developed in August prior to the Parish Poll taking place (which incidentally they received from third parties), then they proceeded to pick the proposals apart, explaining why they were "not deliverable" and then told the audience how their plan was the only viable option and the bus station should be moved. I was incensed. No-body from the MTF team had bothered to contact myself or other No campaigners prior to the Board meeting, no courtesy phone call to say that the plans would be "objectively assessed" at the meeting, no "let's have a coffee and you can talk us through the rationale behind your proposals", no professional courtesy of contacting the local architect who produced the proposals so that he could explain the background to them. They could have stood there and said whilst the plans have merit, they are not as far advanced as the MTF plans - (of course not, they're just initial proposals), but we cannot wait to develop them further and we want to go ahead with our developed and tested option - that would have had more credibility. What they did in that 15 minutes, really encapsulated what is wrong with the whole MTF process so far, they treated the local community,and local activists with contempt, in a quite nasty way they pulled apart a set of proposals, whilst claiming to do so objectively and impartially, and then ended with saying that their proposals were better - well, you're being paid an awful lot of money, so I should jolly well hope so! But it's the contempt for the local community, the lack of communication and understanding that is the real story of this whole situation.... all very sad indeed, I hope the Government inspector will see all of this! Oh, and by the way, as a Breckland Councillor, I was allowed to attend the meeting that was scheduled to start at 10am. So most of us mere 'observers' arrived from 9.30am - 9.55am or so - interesting then that on the official signing in sheet for the building, i.e. the one they use for the fire register, it had the vast majority of names listed as arriving from 8.20am... I wonder what was being discussed in advance of the rest of us attending? One word of praise however, the Chairman, William Nunn (also Breckland Council Leader) did allow us observers quite a bit of time to speak, which was quite courteous, now he probably knew how the vote would go, so had nothing to lose in allowing us to speak, but credit where it is due.