The debate about the siting of the Little Acorns nursery on the Bancombe Road Trading Estate has raised another specific issue which only came to light when I read the Minutesof the Area North Committee held on 22nd October 2008.
In those Minutes, (ex)County Councillor Pauline Clarke spoke in support of the application and used her position (as Portfolio Holder at Somerset County Council responsible for Children and Young People) to re-inforce her support of the application. Having read the Minutes of the meeting in their entirety, (ex)CC Clarke made no other contribution to that meeting. So, the question that occurs to me is, did (ex)CC Clarke attend the meeting with the sole purpose of supporting that application and, if so, why? Was that application of such individual importance that it would justify her attendance or was her attendance requested and, if so, by whom?
I'm also struck by part of the Officer's report where, under 'Considerations' the Officer states that a key consideration is: "........... the introduction of a key town centre use away from a preferred location." In saying this, the Officer was drawing attention to the siting of a facility on a trading estate as opposed to within a town centre location, as it was originally. Moving the nursery facility to an industrial estate on the edge of town also guarantees vehicle use because few parents are going to walk their children to Bancombe whereas the original town location would have been very convenient. But the underlying issue here is that yet another 'town centre use' was being moved away from the traditional town centre, leading to the further decay of the centre of Somerton.
There is another aspect to the original location of the nursery facility, next door to the Somerton Garage site. That site is coming into play as part of probably the biggest development site within the town and it might have been seen, by the developer, as useful to relocate the day nursery in advance of the trucks moving in.
So the question remains as to exactly who represents who? When (ex)CC Clarke went to the Area North Committee, exactly whose interests was she representing? The community's interests or those of more interested parties. The same question can be asked about her involvement in promoting the Badger's Cross HWRC proposal. Councillors bear a heavy responsibility in such matters and it is to be hoped that they consider their electorate, first, last and always.
Till next time, I am Niall Connolly