Sunday, 3 January 2010

SADs, Dams And 'Lies' In Green-field Dispute

An unseemly spat has broken out between rival Park ward candidates and their supporters over the future of the much-loved Alfred Sutton Playing fields.

Green Party candidate Rob White recently launched a campaign to 'say NO' to developing the open-space - with a 'press release and the ubiquitous Facebook group.

He states that "development on these playing fields has been stopped in the past and we will stop it this time too."

However Labour's Richard MacKenzie struck back, accusing the Greens of 'scaremongering' in a very strongly-worded post entitled 'Lies, damn lies and the Green Party'.

The former Labour councillor for Kentwood argues he campaigned to protect the 5.6 hectare site in 1999 and publishes a letter signed by Cllr Tony Page (1, 2), who is clearly not above joining in the slanging match, by attacking "apparent mischief-making and rumour-mongering being fomented in parts of Park Ward".

He then followed up with a secondary blast accusing his opponents of 'Greenspin'.

Rob White however disputes this, calling Mr Page's words a lot of 'waffle'. He links to the Site Allocations Document (SAD) on the council website showing an area off Crescent Road under proposal.

He also attempts to 'fisk' the rebuttal by citing 'unnamed' council officers who informed him the new Local Development Framework has made the protection afforded in previous briefs "of questionable value" which "wouldn't hold up under an appeal from a developer."

Jane Griffiths is always quick to scent the opportunity to exercise her vendetta against her former Labour-party colleagues and immediately springs to the defence of Rob White, making an assertive comment that the man she calls 'Basher' and Labour's deputy leader of the council are lying.

She claims Cllr Page's letter is an admission that there are concrete plans to plough up the open space and that the mere existence of it on the Site and Detailed Policies Document (SDPD) is proof alone.

However Cllr Page writes:
"Neither I nor my colleagues in the administration would support any development for residential which included the adjacent playing fields."
He also states that the current status of the site is under consideration and that "the January Council meeting will agree a revised draft document for consultation during 2010."

On closer inspection of the documents a more complex picture is apparent, as the site is currently of mixed-usage with some indoor sports facilities and classrooms occupying about half of the site.

The proposal is for replacement buildings, requiring 'mitigation... for development outside of building foot print'.

So when I recently spoke to a local resident who is 'in the know', I was told the campaign to restrict the number of houses on the Green Road development (to the immediate south of the site) had raised the point that the large portion of the playing fields sits directly under Whiteknights Lake dam, and this makes the open space an unsuitable location for wider development in any event.

In other words the protection of the playing fields is to be taken on advice only, but equally, neither are they facing an immediate threat.

Satellite view of the site.

Oranjepan says:
It seems both sides are at best only half-right as the truth has followed its' usual habit of getting lost in the technical wording of obscure procedural documents and an increasingly bitterly-fought election campaign.

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