11 March 2011

How times have changed....

Although I don't go to so many Town Council meetings these days I did take myself up to the Tin Dunny on Tuesday past because two planning applications were due to be considered, the Edgar renewal for Etsome Terrace and the Certificate of Lawfulness for Badgers Cross. Sadly, I was to be disappointed on both counts. The Chair, Cllr Michael Fraser-Hopewell, explained that, as the Town Council was a part owner of the Etsome site, the Town Council was entirely precluded from comment. It was also stated that the Badger's Cross application was deferred to the Land & Property meeting on 22nd March. But with regard to the Etsome site, there were a number of comments from a member of the public about the application and two of those comments gave me pause for thought.

If you go back to an earlier M&B, 4th March to be precise, you'll see a drawing of the Etsome site which is my own effort to fully understand the carve-up undertaken by the oSTC. What I hadn't fully appreciated, and a point that was made on Tuesday evening, was that Somerton Town Council is part owner of the site that is effected by the application. Importantly, Somerton Town Council's ownership is the access road to the development and I am moved to wonder if Somerton Town Council is obliged to deliver that access road. I'm sure that the justification for the access road was hung on the provision of a school drop-off point within the development but I have to wonder who came up with that bizarre idea. How do you make a school drop-off point work inside what is a gated development? Talk about idiotic.

Then there is the issue of the Section 106 contribution which should have been imposed on the development but, because of 'special pleading' by the oSTC, a contribution that the development should have made was excused. To clarify that issue, the oSTC claimed that the developer had made substantial contributions to the Town which already equalled the value of a S106 (planning gain) agreement. But if you look at the records of Somerton Town Council, you will find that Mr & Mrs Edgar donated scrap play equipment (which came from Clarks Village) to the town in 2005 with no mention of any relationship to a planning application.

The way that the oSTC, that is the Keenan/Canvin administration, squandered the opportunity of Etsome Terrace still amazes me. I cannot imagine a worse use of such a fantastic opportunity, especially when you look at one particular drawing presented by Somerset County Council to Somerton Town Council in 2002. This drawing was the 'Option 1' version of a series of proposals for the development of Etsome Terrace by Paul Dadson. This offered a template to the then Town Council as to how the site might be developed for the benefit of the community (click on the image to see it larger size).

What clearly happened was that this template also indicated how the local development community could make a quick buck at the taxpayers expense. It showed that the site could easily accommodate housing as well as a community hall and a playground. What is curious is the kack-handed manner in which the Edgar scheme included so much access roadway which, because of the crass inclusion of a 'school drop off point', would end up being maintained by the wider community when its primary function was to serve a gated development. Very clever.

As I've said before, the Dadson scheme stands as a silent witness to the stupidity of the Keenan/Canvin administration. When handed a perfect opportunity to deliver something worthwhile for the community, Keenan and Canvin, ably assisted by the rest of the then Town Council, balls it up to a fabulous extent.

Till next time, I'm still Niall Connolly