One year and 5 months on from having our motion rejected and Cllr. Ian Geldards amendment substituted, we are no further forward regarding Festival Walk. Festival Walk has not been discussed at any Council meeting since, as was proposed by Ian Geldard nor does it feature in his recent election leaflet (Spennymoor Ward bi-election 18/2/16) despite this being an issue raised by the public in the STC “You said, we did” Council leaflet paid for out of public funds. As you can see I also refer to discussions on the deteriorating Festival Walk at the Area1 Forum in 2003!
This was my social media post in September 2014.
“How much simpler would it have been to accept Cllr. Thompson’s motion at Tuesday night’s Council meeting. Unfortunately this is not the Labour way. The point is we need a debate on Festival Walk and the Town Centre and this needs to involve members of the public, councillors and stakeholders to move the status quo forward. Until I read Cllr. Geldard’s amendment on facebook I had not seen it in print. All Councillor’s were circulated with Cllr. Thompson’s motion a week in advance and Labour councillors had time to prepare a counter response as well as produce the lengthy statements that were read out highly critical of the ‘perceived’ reasons behind the original motion. Playing to an audience and camera comes to mind and quite unnecessary. Councillors were not circulated with the amended motion in advance of discussion. I then looked back on my records and can say that no-where in the document referred to as Proposed Vision of the Council meeting of the 24th June 2014 are Festival Walk or the Town Centre mentioned nor do they feature in the Spennynews article issue 271 of 12th July 2014 or the recent Labour by election leaflet summarising Labour’s ‘vision’ for Spennymoor. Cllr. Thompson was right to detail these as priority areas in his motion.
As I said on Tuesday night I attended Sedgefield Borough Council’s (SBC) Area 1 Forum from 2003 and Festival Walk featured regularly in discussions. SBC had a Liaison Officer who took forward comments from the meetings to the owners of Festival Walk and was able to negotiate improvements in some areas. SBC also commissioned consultants to look at the issue. The Consultants invited stakeholders including Councillors to attend their meetings and express a view on the way forward. Their report must have been lost somewhere in the transfer to the Unitary Council (DCC) as I learned in the press that more Consultants were to be engaged by DCC – at what additional cost? 5 years on from the new DCC we are still no further forward. We still have the same depressing shutters and deteriorating infrastructure and empty shops that need to be filled. My question of whether DCC had a liaison officer was not initially answered and for a brief moment I heard that I could not ask the question again as I had already spoken once at the meeting. No money because of the Government deficit I was told by Cllr. Foster – this is despite DCC ‘s Government New Homes bonus contribution that should have been spent locally considering the 2000 plus new homes built or planned to be built in our local area.
As an Independent I voted for the Labour amendment as it did promote stakeholder involvement and also to move progress. The question is whether members of the public can participate in an Agenda item on Festival Walk/Town Centre at the Planning & Highways meeting as the current Standing Orders allow only for one question per resident or organisation per Committee meeting. The challenge will be to find ways to keep shoppers in Spennymoor and to rejuvenate Festival Walk and for this we need the cooperation of the owners of Festival Walk and the ideas/suggestions of as many other stakeholders as possible and the forum to do this. ”
STC standing orders (rules) states that a motion can not be brought back for debate for six months after first being raised. Enough time has elapsed to request a working group be formed again and then we can see what amendment or excuses Cllr Ian Geldard makes this time!
Please let us have your comments.
Cllr. Liz Maddison, Spennymoor Independents