|Concerts OKed in Leader's Absence|
In his absence the remaining local Lib Dems managed to confuse the chair and his advisers by proposing an amendment when discussing a controversial West End planning application. Advised to take a vote on the substantive motion before the amendment, Hedge End Town Councillor Rupert Kyrle (who continues to chair the LAC alongside his mayoral duties) overruled his officers with the support of one or two of his senior colleagues and - correctly - took the vote on the amendment before the substantive motion.
It's not the first time this has happened at the Hedge End, West End and Botley LAC, and it does not give a good impression of the professionalism of the Borough Council. Rupert is experienced enough in the role to know the correct procedure. He should either ignore his officers or make sure they have a refresh in basic meeting management.
The confusion was only a temporary diversion from the debate. Referred to the committee because the Council received more than ten letters of opposition (the threshold, apparently, that makes it a "controversial" application) the application was for an unpopular infill development in the garden of a house in Monarch Way. Residents were concerned that the access to the garden was too narrow for construction traffic and that delivery lorries, cranes and other plant would be a dangerous disruption to traffic and pedestrians in a constricted area.
Independently-minded Hedge End Town Councillors Bruce Tennent and Jane Welsh sided with the residents as they indicated they were minded to vote against the motion to permit the application. In the other corner were their Hedge End Town Council colleague Cllr Dan Clarke and West End Cllr David Goodall who could see no valid planning reasons to turn down the application. Clearly concerned that Cllrs Tennent and Welsh might gain sufficient support to reject the application and that consequential appeal costs would fall on the Council, Louise Bloom proposed her amendment to defer the decision to a future LAC.
Seconded by Botley's Cllr Cathie Fraser, the amendment was passed with only Cllrs Clarke and Goodall voting against. When it came to the vote on the substantive motion, Cllr Tennent was as good as his word and voted against. It's not the first time that Bruce has stood alone in front of the Lib Dem bulldozer, but his vote was not enough to save everybody having to go through the whole thing again in September.
Rose Bowl Concerts
Less controversial was the request from Rose Bowl plc to stage more concerts at their Ageas Bowl stadium. Local members and Council officers are convinced that Rose Bowl concerts are now supported by most local residents. Only three letters have been provoked by the new application, and two of those were in support.
Public participation prior to the debate raised two questions about the application. The first was in relation to the officers' recommendation to grant temporary permission only. Why not make the arrangement permanent and accept that the Ageas Bowl is a major entertainment venue? The second was about limiting the number of concerts to four in a two year period. As Rose Bowl plc has trouble raising money from banks, why not allow them to have twelve concerts a year to help their business case and make it more likely that they can repay the Council's loan?
The official view was that temporary permission for concerts is appropriate while the stadium is still unfinished as the acoustic characteristics will inevitably change as more stands and the hotel are built.
Members were convinced that the good will of local residents would be stretched if the number of concerts were to be increased. At the moment concerts are seen as a positive contribution to the Borough's cultural and economic life, and consent was granted with just one or two Hedge End councillors wanting to make sure that the traffic management plans would ensure that access to their houses in Dowd's Farm would not be blocked by unofficial parking.
Plans to spend £350,000 on highway improvements (described here) went through on the nod.
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