Galmington playing fields latest update
Below is the latest update from the Chair of the ‘Friends of Galmington Playing Fields’, Andy Sharman:
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I trust you are well. Apologies in advance as there’s a lot of content in this message but I’ll try to keep it concise.
I’m reporting back on some of the recent activities that we’ve been engaged in with regards to saving our park.
As you will recall, there was a great deal of frustration brewing at the stonewalling from the council, particularly given our high expectations of the new Lib Dem led authority in light of their manifesto pledges.
This frustration was further exacerbated by the announcement to the press concerning a visit to the park from the council leader to meet residents and park users, which sadly was not communicated to us as residents or our local councillors!
Luckily, one of the recipients of the message was good enough to alert us to this visit, so we were able to meet Federica at the park and again express our concerns directly to her, so thank you to all who came out at such short notice – I do believe it was useful and it was good of her to come out and engage with us on this, even if they weren’t particularly upfront about the arrangements.
The purpose of the visit was to announce that there was to a Member’s Briefing on the 29th of October where Maggie’s & MPH could pitch to the councillors.
We were not included in this originally but thanks to our lobbying and support from councillors, an invite was eventually forthcoming. After the Briefing, the matter would be put to a vote at Full Council on the 12th of November.
The committee met and discussed our approach for the briefing and subsequent council vote.
We agreed that our briefing would itemise all the legal arguments we’ve researched and prepared as well as highlighting the malpractice and lack of transparency around this issue. Instead of tugging at heartstrings, it is our view that elected members are sensible enough to hear facts and act accordingly.
We still however felt the simplest solution was to actually get everyone around a table and seek a solution that was suitable to all.
This is something that we’ve been asking for since February!
Well, I’m pleased to say that again due to our campaigning and some helpful assistance from councillors, last Friday, a meeting was finally held between the council, Maggie’s, MPH & committee members Bev Fernandes and Ian Morrell plus myself.
John Hunt attended as our County Rep, sadly Simon Nicholls and Habib Farbahi were not permitted to attend for undisclosed reasons, which was a real shame given their involvement in our work from day one. Martin Peters and Mike Rigby were present as was Federica.
It was a very respectful and professional conversation despite our polarised views and the basis of the discussions was that MPH has no room for Maggie’s so the park is the only option. Maggie’s were insistent that it was our park or nowhere for them as they have to be located near a hospital.
Concerns from our Green Forum friends were abated by Mike Rigby and Federica when asked about the precedent such an action would cause. Their view was this was purely down to Maggie’s need to be near the hospital, if a good cause was proposed for another green space then it wouldn’t have that symbiotic relationship as is the case here.
James Hassett asked all if there was room for compromise and we said would listen to any sensible suggestions but it seemed that there was nothing tangible (at the moment) from them. As far as Maggie’s and MPH were concerned, they felt there was no room for them to compromise with us.
We asked SWTC if the questions asked by us earlier in the year had been answered – they had not.
We asked the council and Maggie’s if they had sought further legal advice following our disclosures about the misrepresentation of support from the family of Hamilton-Gault and the impacts of that – they had not.
SWTC did say that they had reviewed their property portfolio but it did not yield a positive alternative for the building.
John Hunt quite rightly pressed the leaders on why their promise to this community to stop the building had not been delivered when they acted so decisively over the hotel.
Mike explained that permissions nor providers had been appointed in the hotel case unlike our situation and that the new council were trying to unravel the problem created for them by the previous administration.
It is worth remembering that no-one currently involved, the Chief Executive or the Leadership, were responsible for this decision – that said a promise made to a community by politicians is a sacred oath and not one that ought to be broken but at least we have a sense that they are now finally trying to resolve the matter at hand.
It was agreed that MPH would arrange a site visit for us all to explore their stance that there is nowhere on the grounds for Maggie’s to go.
We suggested that given the lack of research, legal advice and knowledge of the situation from the council and the other two organisations that proceeding with the member briefing would be premature.
We felt it would be best if they all had more time (although we wished that the matter was already concluded positively in our favour as promised) to explore alternatives and respond to the questions we have put forward.
The committee were quite clear that we support Maggie’s and their work but we would prefer it if it was sited somewhere more appropriate than our park.
We have offered all our support in bringing the matter to a positive resolution but it was evident that if we proceeded to a member briefing then onto a vote at full council, it would have been painfully embarrassing for all concerned.
We’re pleased to report back that on Wednesday, we received news from James Hassett that Federica had requested the member briefing is postponed to allow all parties more time to explore solutions.
This is a wise move and we’re thankful to Federica for her consideration of our request.
So, while it’s not the outcome we’re all seeking, it does mean that we are finally all talking and hopefully we can work together going forwards to find the best result.
Worst case scenario would be that we are unable to resolve the matter amicably, then we go back to where we were but we know that our evidence is sufficient to support a lengthy and expensive legal process which we will win, so we feel that we’ve not lost anything in this situation by asking for this postponement.
As we’ve frequently stated, it remains the view of the committee (and the community) that we can find a more suitable home for Maggie’s (assuming there’s some flexibility in their thinking) and that between us, we can hopefully build a positive partnership to deliver the ambitions of all without sacrificing our important green spaces.
We have to again thank our elected friends for their ongoing efforts on our behalf, many of them are as frustrated as we are, but like us they keep on keeping on and it is appreciated.
It’s also important that we thank our local media friends- Daniel Mumby, Amy Cole, Stuart Wright and Darren Cullum for their fair and considered coverage, we’re really thankful for their ongoing interest in this matter. The recent Gazette Poll which saw over 1,000 people respond 64% in favour of us assures us that what we are doing is right and it’s supported.
With that in mind, we’d finally like to again extend our gratitude to residents for their faith and support as we endeavour to hold local government and it’s leadership to account for their actions, we keep fighting and knowing you’re all behind us really helps – so thank you all.
Aside from something miraculous happening, I suspect we won’t see much movement this side of the new year but we will keep you posted as and when anything significant happens.
Congratulations on making it all the way to the end of this message, I hope it was helpful.
If you want to discuss any of this further or if you’re an elected member who has not yet been to see the site, drop me a line and we can hopefully answer your questions or arrange a visit so we can inform you of the issues we’re facing.
Again, on behalf of the committee, our thanks to you all for your interest.
Chair, Friends of Galmington Playing Fields.
You can follow this story and keep up to date by following the Friends of Galmington Plaing Fields on twitter.
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