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Stampede Of The Drama Llamas

April 17th 2013

Andrew Austin

New councillor Andrew Austin - not a drama llama

Oh, boy. When politicians stop talking about what matters to their constituents, and start flinging mud at each other, it's like fingernails down my blackboard. There was a fair bit of such pointless drama during Tuesday's town council meeting, and I hate the way it obscures more important issues, which I will deal with first.

Planning contravention

Mrs Dyson spoke in the public forum about her concerns, and also those of Mr and Mrs Bond, over the development of a plot of land at Kenwick Pastures. She cited over-intensification, and flood risk amongst her objections, as well as concerns that the applicant is in contravention of existing planning decisions. Mrs Dyson said she was "very disappointed and disillusioned" with the way ELDC has dealt with this.

Councillor Eileen Ballard said "Lots of people are really upset about this water problem." The discussion revolved around the drainage of hard standing areas, and the way this often wasn't well thought-out.

"It is something myself and Councillor Makinson-Sanders have brought up more than once," Councillor Laura Stephenson said, referring to their role as district councillors. "The infrastructure has to be dealt with."

Park Avenue green spaces

Mr Scarfe got up to speak about the loss of green space, and the threat to the 5-a-side field behind Louth football club. This is the subject of plans which include rebuilding a couple of shops, as well as initial plans (which were later amended) to turn the pitch into a "sports legacy zone". "I hope people here can allow kids somewhere to kick a ball around," Mr Scarfe said.

"Green space is getting used up more and more," Councillor George Horton said.

Skate park!

Finally, there's some good news about a possible skate park in town. Louth X Sports have been in meetings with ELDC about a possible skate park at the Meridian Centre. Mr Andrews, who runs Louth X Sports, spoke to the council about the status of the project, and how plans are progressing. A skate park was in the original plans for the Meridian Centre, so in theory this will be a suitable location for it.

Councillor Trevor Marris asked about the money that was raised before, when the skate park project was started by a different group. Mr Andrews explained that there is about 1700, but they haven't been able to retrieve it.

Councillors expressed their support for the skate park. "The kids of Louth deserve it," said Councillor Neil Ward.

"We've always been for it, " Councillor Ballard agreed. "We still are."

However this is not just about agreeing to plans. ELDC planners and Louth X Sports want the town council to adopt the project and bring it to completion. The town clerk, Linda Blankley, reported that she had queried ELDC about why they hadn't taken it on, but had yet to obtain a reply. Then there is the question of insurance for the area, which the Louth X Sports would be expected to pay for. I'm not sure how significant a cost that would be, considering that there's nothing to steal, but it's something that hasn't been accounted for in a park that would be designed for a very vigorous sporting activity. The council formed a working group to look at the details, and this will report back at a future meeting.

Now for the drama

After these rather encouraging plans, we came to item 10 on the agenda, which was a complaint made about certain members of the council by a member of the public, Mr Stuart Watson, about behaviour at a council meeting on 26th February. I was there for the start of the meeting on the 26th, but I left before things allegedly got ugly because it was an exceptionally long session. So anyway, the complaint relates to comments made by Councillor Andrew Leonard. The Mayor, who had chaired that meeting, asked Councillor Burnett to take over this section of the meeting. The town clerk reported that this matter has been referred to the district council's monitoring committee on standards.

The matter involves Councillor Leonard's use of the word "vile" to describe Councillor Watson. Last night I was all set to quote their statements of justification and defence in depth, but as I write this the mere thought of it saps my will to live. So instead I give you the edited highlights:

  • Councillor Leonard refused to retract the words that had given rise to the complaint, and went on to ask whether Councillor Watson would be resigning.

  • "I think I have been defamed," Councillor Watson said.

  • Councillor Stephenson said "A lot of things were said that none of us felt comfortable with."

What annoys me is the time that the council took considering this matter, instead of issues that directly affect more people. This is not some major ideological struggle about the future development of Louth. It's an alleged breach of the code of conduct. So whether or not you think what was said was totally out of order, it pales into insignificance next to the needs and wants of everyone else in the town.



 


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