Two of the Friends’ committee attended the meeting of the Council’s Executive yesterday evening (14th Feb), and spoke about the Friends’ concerns about the plans to create a holiday flat in the former park-keepers accommodation. We had previously added our comments on the planning application (see the planning portal with the reference number 18/02255/FUL) and these comments are amongst those integrated in the council’s updated document on the application (pages 71 to 85)
We anticipated that the holiday flat plans would be agreed at this meeting, because no viable alternatives have been brought forward, despite a lot of discussion. And so it proved to be. However, it was significant that the councillors agreed with us that the public hadn’t been given sufficient information about the plan, in particular how the money raised would be spent, and how the property would be managed, when the conversion was completed. And the lack of clear communication even meant that members of the public thought that the flat (or in one case the cafe itself) was to be sold – unsurprisingly the word ‘disposal’ in the legal documents led people to assume this. The council’s updated document (see above) does provide answers to many of the questions raised, but it is still not readily accessible, as it is 15 pages within a daunting 342-page document, held on the council’s website.
Besides these issues, the aspects that have caused most debate locally can be grouped under the heading ‘moral issues.’ Would the Rowntree family have approved of (non-local) people holidaying in the park, and paying a lot of money for the privilege? Is it in the spirit of their gift? Would it be more fitting if a council employee was offered the accommodation? Is re-purposing like this an indication that the council would eventually like to sell the property? It is difficult to know the answers (impossible in some cases) but a question-and-answer session – and equivalent published material – would be very helpful.
However, the plans and money weren’t just ‘nodded through’ at the meeting, because (unusually) the council officers were told that they were required to now engage with the public, seeking to clarify plans and allay worries, and then return to the Executive. We will now work with council officers to ensure that there is an open meeting for this purpose, as soon as practical, and will advertise this as widely as possible. As usual, why not follow us on FB or Twitter (better still, join as a Friend, and get our regular members’ newsletters) and keep up to date with the news in the Park?
Meanwhile, the planning application will be re-worked and re-submitted, probably in July, with work on the Lodge (assuming that all goes to plan) starting in the autumn. Again, we make sure that this is advertised on FB, Twitter and via our newsletters.
All the council’s meetings are webcast, so you can see clips of us and Cllr Johnny Hayes speaking towards the beginning of the meeting, and the discussion amongst the councillors 52 minutes later on, using this link.