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Open to Interpretation

Wouldn’t you know it? Nothing for ages, and then a flurry. Canterbury City Council have finally produced their Draft Open Spaces Strategy, and a rattling good read it is.

Section 5 has some good stuff in it:

Sage words. Fine words. Dear reader, imagine my consternation and disappointment when I found this, tucked away in a far distant Appendix:

Despite the King’s Hall slopes and The Downs being ‘existing open spaces’, CCC are proposing to develop some kind of ‘interpretation project’, defeating the aims and objectives of their declared Strategic Vision. I must admit to being somewhat mollified by this proposal being equal 14th in a prioritised list of 17 to be spread over the next 5 years. Time enough, I thought rashly, to persuade CCC of their folly. Hey ho.

On the Agenda for the CCC Executive’s meeting for the 30th July, a frustratingly secret item:The standard excuse for excluding the press and public from the sausage-making ugliness of Councillors in action is that there is some kind of commercial confidentiality at stake. (Remind me, whose money is it that they’re spending?) So what’s going on?

In the beginning, so rumour has it, A Developer approached A Councillor and convinced her/him that The Downs was ripe for development. Said Councillor presented the idea to the Council. The Hive-mind cried “Desist! The constraints of good governance, that chafe us so, compel us to solicit competitive bids – this cannot be seen to be a stitch-up or shoo-in!”.

There was some hasty tendering, and all looked set fair to continue as originally planned. Oops! Local irritants highlighted the illegality of breaching the covenants on the land. CCC’s legal advisers told them all was well. The Irritants pointed out that they were mistaken. Everything went quiet, supposedly while the legal position was examined more closely. Suddenly, the proposal re-surfaces, although shrouded in secrecy.

My interpretation is:

  • through poor legal advice, or sheer bravado, or blind greed, CCC has convinced itself that commercial development of The Downs is not illegal;
  • they have received proposals that they believe circumvent the restrictions stated in the legal covenants that came with the land when it passed to them;
  • CCC will want to impose their preferred bidder, regardless of the legality, or the local opposition.

I look forward to finding out exactly how My Council proposes to spend My Money, defiling My Town. Personally, I believe that Councillors who wilfully pursue an illegal course of action should be responsible for any and all costs that arise. Once upon a time, they would have been – it was called surcharging.

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