19 October 2009

A collective noun..........

After hearing a dozen reports of Somerton Town Council's meeting on 13th October, M&B was moved to consider what might be the collective noun for a gathering together of hypocrites. A flock? A swarm? A huddle? An opinion? There were plenty of possibles but, in the end, one proposed itself above all others - a council of hypocrites. Perfect in Oh so many ways but very very apropos with regard to Somerton Town Council because that indeed is what they are. Let me explain.

Over the years various planning applications in the older parts of Somerton have faced objections from councillors for the most idiotic of reasons. The application at the rear of Old Bell House being one such application and the meal that the Council made recently over the application at Cow Square was another.

With those experiences in mind, you'd have thought that the Council would be very, very careful with a planning application for one of the more prominent buildings at the centre of the 'old town', especially an application that the Town Council was promoting. In this I am referring to the application for a set of French doors to be installed at the Parish Rooms. So it came as something of a surprise to be told that Cllr Gill 'asleep at the wheel' Beale had put this application together without notifying any of the other councillors.

This struck M&B as strange because recent experiences of Cllr Beale suggest that she'd have difficulty filling in a Bingo Card far less instructing a planning application. M&B made some enquiries and was very surprised to establish that this planning application has been underway for some time. The covering letter to the planning app was signed by our esteemed Town Clerk on 16th September, almost a month before the meeting of 13th October. The covering letter was noted as having been circulated to Keenan, Canvin and Beale. The application itself was made by Bryan Sheffield Ltd (a company known to Edgar Builders) and the drawings which accompanied the application were dated August 2009. From this it is possible to suggest that work on the application must have started before August 2009, probably in July.

Now, for Bryan Sheffield Ltd to have started work they would have needed an instruction and a quick call to their office in Shepton Mallet resulted in Mr Bryan Sheffield himself confirming that he had taken his instructions from our esteemed Town Clerk and also from our Clerk's administrative assistant, Mrs Briggs. Given that this work was clearly known to Keenan, Canvin, Beale, Calderwood and Briggs at least a month before the application was lodged, how was it that the item had to be withdrawn "because the Council didn't know about it"?

And that takes us to consideration of the application itself (see drawing below). Somerton Town Council's general ignorance of planning issues has always been pretty obvious but this application really underscores that ignorance. The application proposes that an opening some 10' high and 6' wide be cut into the southern and most visible elevation of the Parish Rooms to accommodate a pair of french doors. This opening will cut far into the arched window in that elevation and, however it is executed, will change the character of that aspect of the building for ever. Not only that, I would imagine that the work will probably result in the replacement of the entire window-frame as I doubt it is in very good condition.
To summarise, we have a pretty crude application which will deface an important building in the Market Square (see Pevsner's guide with regard to Somerton) and within the conservation area. The proposal is to insert a pair of shoddy aluminium doors (powder coated white?) which would not look out of place in a convenience store. And all of this is done, we are led to believe, at the hand of a councillor, Cllr Beale, who was one of the fiercest critics of a well thought through application at the rear of Old Bell House. Talk about a council of hypocrites.

And remember, suckers, you'll be paying for this wonderful addition to our townscape.