21 October 2009

Shaved heads and earrings..........

This evenings 'presentation' at the Tin Dunny was something of an anti-climax in that there was really nothing to add to the information that the community had already gathered about the planning application for a proposed amenity site at Badgers Cross. The developer, A H Canvin, had put on a show with various consultants and planning advisors but, in essence, the cat is out of the bag and the hired help added little to the debate.

The key points would now seem to be that this application is speculative and that it does not answer nor seek to answer any strategic objective defined by policy at County or District level, mainly because there is none to answer. It does address the Government's over-arching objective, at a national level, to reduce landfill and to increase recycling but, there again, so does your wheelie bin. No, the problem for this application is that, when it is examined, it is only of significance to the applicant and what they have failed to consider is the impact that their self-interest will have on everyone else.

Its fair to say that, because of the applicant's clear misjudgement of the community's mood where the applicant sought to present the application in a prejudiced and kack-handed manner at the Somerton Town Council meeting on 13th October, there has been a remarkable ground-swell of opinion against the application and also against the applicant. The situation is not helped by the community's growing awareness that the applicant's dual role, both as developer and both Local and District Councillor, gives the applicant significant and influential access to all aspects of the planning process. Access which the community does not share in equal measure and which, the community is beginning to see, gives the applicant a significant advantage in a situation such as this.

Obviously the applicant's consultants were quick to point out that, in a situation such as this, where the applicant faces possible accusations of 'conflict of interest', the applicant would leave a Council Meeting whilst their application was being discussed. But the community is beginning to appreciate that the issue is not the relatively short period of time when the application is being considered that is under scrutiny. Under scrutiny is the far longer period of time, possible a year or 18 months before the application is made, when the applicant can use their extensive access to the process to prepare their position. In the face of this advantage, the community is starting to feel abused.

Now, most reasonable people, when faced with gathering storm clouds, might have made a real and constructive effort to build bridges and adopt a softer approach towards the community. But that isn't A H Canvin's style. No, A H Canvin doesn't do conciliation but favours a more robust approach and that was signalled by the presence of two heavies dressed like bouncers from some brawler's pub in the East End. These charming individuals guarded the entrance to the Tin Dunny, something that hasn't usually been needed at our very own Marie Celeste. There was also gentle intimidation people entering the hall (a public space owned by the community) were photographed. When challenged about this action the applicant's hired help sought to explain it by suggesting that it was part of the consultation process and that it would help them count the number of visitors to the presentation. Not a very convincing story.

Now we will have to wait to see which way Somerton Town Council jumps when they are scheduled to consider their response to this application at next week's meeting. Will we see the usual parade of sad husks making meaningless comments before they are marshalled, like sheep, into the obligatory 'almost a majority' vote in favour of this latest slap in the face for Somerton.

Be there! See the spectacle. Gasp. Cry.