Full review of school plan is vitally needed
4:06pm Friday 29th June 2012 in Your Say
More than six months after the scandalous Croft planning meeting shocking facts still continue to emerge and last week I was told that certain connected individuals are “gleeful” that the local community did not seek a judicial review. Disgraceful.
Do they realise that not pursuing legal action doesn’t legitimise the process?
It just sadly means that it’s too expensive, both in terms of time and financial costs for almost all ordinary people to carry through.
Local people contributed more than £15,000 of personal savings for expert advice in advance of the planning meeting, seeking to ensure that the truth was heard and taken into account.
Expert advice that the applicant, Swindon Borough Council, appears to have chosen to dismiss or ignore.
The money was almost the least of the costs compared to the time spent, stress suffered and trust lost, much of which could have been avoided if this had been a truly fair, open and transparent process.
Without a lottery win, how many could contribute even more money to fight this injustice?
The day after the Croft school decision was made Graham Mack (BBC Radio Wiltshire) asked me whether we would appeal the decision.
I said yes, unaware at the time that only an applicant, in this case SBC, was legally entitled to appeal, whatever the rights or the wrongs of the case.
We learnt that the Town And Country Planning Act (1990) enables councils to go as far as revoking a planning decision where evidence proves that misleading information was provided.
This seems fair and a way for intervention without members of the public having to incur eye-watering amounts of legal fees, so we took evidence to the Scrutiny committee.
Scrutiny? Nope, apparently “planning isn't subject to scrutiny”, so the evidence was ignored. We then took the request to the planning committee hoping for a discussion.
Any joy there? Nope. Told instead that “it may not be expedient for a council to revoke a decision” whatever the basis.
At the outset we believed that the process would be open and transparent and so ignored the veteran ward councillor's mantra that it wasn’t worth local people getting involved as the school would go ahead “whatever we did or said.” Were we wrong to expect better?
Recently a wise, good man told me that in his view, we never stood a chance when SBC was the applicant, the guardian of our land and the planning applicant but he was impressed with our tenacity.
Weeks ago hundreds of local people signed petitions stating that they had no confidence in the Croft process and rejecting the decision.
Listened to? Nope, the petitions were not allowed to be heard at the Civic offices, on a SBC technicality.
Legal? Maybe. Open, transparent, good enough? You decide.
The Labour group called again for a full review and the Liberal Democrats highlighted the Croft in their election manifesto, distributing 5,000 leaflets assuring neighbouring residents that “the Croft experience could NEVER happen in Eastcott.”
Whatever the next step on this troubled school project, we all deserve better and a full review is clearly needed urgently.
Carole Bent Old Town, Swindon
Thank you GWH
Just two words but a million thank yous cannot explain how I feel today.
Four weeks ago I entered the Great Western Hospital at 7.30am and at 3.30pm I was sitting up in Aldbourne Ward with a nice cup of tea and a new hip and no pain.
A lovely man with two associates came to see me and shook my hand but as I was away with the fairies at the time I did not know that he had been my surgeon, so thank you sir. The next few days were a bit of a blur, with drinking gallons of water, trying to get in and out of bed as much as possible, walkies up and down the corridor, up and down steps, trying to eat three meals a day and a warm milky drink last thing at night.
I arrived home followed by walking frames, a trolley and a seat, all to help me get around. Such wonderful service.
Then the district nurses started to call see if I was all right. I felt like royalty. Such wonderful people and miles and miles of smiles and I had nothing to give except my grateful thanks.
No matter how many hours those lovely people worked, they still smiled.
So thank you again everyone and when I can walk with just one stick, I will be in to thank you properly.
Lillian Spencer Thames Avenue, Swindon
It’s no choice
We must choose between funding for elderly care or cutting the grass reported the Adver on Friday, June 8.
But there is no contest as people in need should always receive priority.
The grass does not need all over cutting.
This April and May, when it has been too wet for the cutters to operate, Swindon verges have been a mass of white and yellow wild flowers.
Poppies are now in bloom and we haven't seen them for years.
Leaving the wildflowers encourages bees and one of the reasons for their recent decline has been the year on year destruction of their food source.
No bees and we are dead. Grass verges should only be cut back at road junctions where there is a possibility of restricting a driver's view.
Robert Major Reeves Close, Swindon
Do a proper job
After reading the comments by Mike Spry regarding the council’s grass cutting I felt I should add my twopennth.
I live in the Woodhall Park area and the surrounding grassy and roadside areas were cut about a week ago.
I use the word cut but to me it looked as if they had been done with a knife and fork. An absolute disgrace.
In the close where I live there is a grassy area that has always been cut by the council whenever they are cutting in the neigbouring area.
This time they haven’t bothered. A call to the appropriate department hasn’t helped either. Whether they have changed their grasscutting contractors, I don’t know, but we have never had this problem in the past.
So come on Swindon Council, pull your fingers out. If you’re going to do the job, do it properly.
Ron Stevens Ramsthorn Close, Swindon
Think of the word ‘pensioner.’ Now what adjective immediately springs to mind? 'Poor!' Spot on.
“Poor pensioners!” The two words are virtually inseparable in this country.
British pensioners are among the poorest in Europe with more than two million of them at risk of poverty, official figures revealed recently These statistics confirm another recent study which stated that elderly Britons (over 60s) were poorer than their peers in Germany, Sweden or the Netherlands.
Charities urge the figures should amount to a wake up call to the plight of millions of older people and have prompted calls for a shake up of the pension system.
And what are the Cameron/Osborne-led Government's intentions?
This Government is targeting pensioners big time with their plans to “investigate” saving money by looking at: Winter Fuel Allowance (£50 of which was removed last year by Cameron), bus passes, free prescriptions and the free TV licence for the over 75s.
Bear in mind this is the same David Cameron who in his party’s manifesto promised to retain these entitlements.
This Government has declared war on its elderly subjects while keeping its rich City chums safe from attack.
Moreover, billions of taxpayers’ money is frittered away on countries that have more billionaries than us!
There is little doubt that they wish to turn back the clock and have us doffing our hats to our “betters” as they condescend to speak with us or pass by.
Rumour has it that when the attacks are at their peak against UK pensioners, those over 60 will be able to apply for one remaining benefit: A free one way ticket to Switzerland.
Don’t grow old in this country; the present incumbents in number 10 and 11 Downing Street are the most ungodly to have ever walked the corridors of power.
J Adams Bloomsbury, Swindon
While it is clear he and I will never agree, I would like to thank Mr Halliday for taking the time to reply to my letter. I'll admit it's nice to meet someone who is as strong-minded on this subject as I am, even if we take deeply opposing views.
I hope Mr Halliday can find some way to enjoy the unique occasion, if not the event itself.
Adam Jenkins Hadleigh Rise, Swindon