Friday, 27 June 2014

We’ve mentioned The Quadrant development in Wyberton a time or two since the first plans were launched – and it came as no surprise that local people last week voted overwhelmingly against the idea.
Although the turnout was low – a meagre 18.76%, which was just 560 out of a voting population of 2,984 – of those who did vote, 483 rejected the plan and only 77 voted in favour.
That’s more than 85% against.
The voting avoided all the emotional nonsense about Boston United’s proposed new stadium, simply asking: "Do you want the development known as The Quadrant to be built?"
Ahead of the poll, we heard an impassioned cry which declared that without the new stadium there would be no Boston United.
This seems to be somewhat over-egging the pudding – and totally ignores the fact that the first phase of the scheme also includes 500 new homes, which we suspect is at the root of the opposition.
Figures on the website Openly Local say that Wyberton has around 1,625 dwellings.
So a development on the scale proposed would increase the size of the village by a third – and that’s only the first of the four stages.
Because of the scale, the council must refer the application to the Secretary of State if it wants to give it the go-ahead, but not if it wishes to refuse it.
However, the comments that we have seen so far indicate that many of the great and the good will smile on the project when it comes up for discussion at a special meeting on 5th August, the management of which will be laid out following a meeting of the planning committee earlier this week chaired by veteran Councillor Mary Wright and presented to the full council on Monday night.
We agree that Boston needs new housing – but whether we need so much in one place is questionable.
And the future of the football club should not be used as a carrot behind the stick wielded by the developers of the project.
Interestingly, local campaigners say that more people voted in the village referendum, than the number who took part in a poll by the developer which covered the whole of Boston.
One small spanner in the works has emerged in the form of fears by the Wyberton Playing Field charity which says that Chestnut Homes have submitted plans which include re-arranging their football pitches.
The charity –  which was first registered more almost 50 years ago, lists its activities as junior football for seven to 16 year-old boys and girls,  senior football for men and women, a children’s play area, dominoes, pool, darts,  bingo and snooker – and  is run on a shoestring budget of  well under £10,000 a year.
Apparently the plans to re-arrange the pitches have been done without consulting the Executive Committee and would become a fait accompli if the plans are approved.
Any agreement would have to be taken by a special meeting which might also involve the Charity Commission.
Boston Borough Council’s planning department is said to feel that the developers are taking a bit of a liberty and have told them so.
Phew! That’ll make a difference.
Earlier this week, Boston’s Mayor, Councillor Alison Austin, raised the Armed Forces Day flag in the Memorial Gardens in Wide Bargate to heighten awareness of the achievements and contributions of the armed forces.
Whilst the location is entirely appropriate, it again reminds us of the loss of use of the flagpole on the Assembly Rooms nightclub – despite the promises of the owner.
How much better if we had been able to fly two flags to mark tomorrow’s event, one in Wide Bargate and the other for all to see in the Market Place area.
Instead, these days Boston Borough Council relies on a broom handle in a window box at Worst Street, where we can guarantee that no-one ever sees it.
All of which reminds us yet again of the council’s poorly planned public appeal to fund a borough memorial to mark the centenary of the First World War – which it is now more than halfway there.
The memorial will cost £4,200 and so far £2,470 is in the kitty.
This is very disappointing given the length of time that the appeal has been on the go and it seems to be advancing as slowly as did the front during the war that the bench or obelisk – we have not been told the final choice – will commemorate.
We have been critical of the way this stunt has been run for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, when the appeal showed signs of failing dismally, the entire sum was underwritten by the Boston Town Area Committee – whose role under the council's constitution is to represent and support town centre wards.
This committee has been a soft touch for years, and often gives money away to causes which are not specific to the town centre – contrary to its rules.
In fact almost all it appears to do now is to give away the precept paid in over and above the general council tax, and little if anything else to represent the interest of the people it is supposed to represent.
The committee meets four times a year.
This year’s tally of meetings is one on 5th March, a second a month later on 30th April, a virtually unscheduled  meeting last week with a single agenda item about planning for emergencies following the tidal surge and now nothing more until 10th of December.
It is almost as if the committee is trying to prove that it need not really exist.
But back to the appeal.
The predominant contributors have been councillors and parish councils, which makes it more of a tax on ratepayers than a public appeal.
Elsewhere in Lincolnshire, South Kesteven District Council came up with an excellent plan, and was well rewarded by the lottery fund as a result.
Boston could have done better and spent more if it had taken a leaf from SKDC’s book.
But never mind, the borough – with its obsession with “badges” tells us that “All donations will be recorded on a public roll of honour.”
Presumably, it will join the long-forgotten “Roll of Achievement” on the council’s website, which got off to a poor start, then fizzled completely until it was baled out by a list of historical characters compiled by members of the University of the Third Age Local History Group who researched the stories behind the naming of some of the borough's roads and streets.  
The webpage was last updated on  27th  November  2012.
Finally, a recent issue of the Boston Daily Bunkum added to the existing lackness of lustre of all this by seeming unable to decide which war it wanted to commemorate.
click on the picture to enlarge it
The First World War or the second …?
The decision by Independent Councillor Carol Taylor to cease blogging pro tem is a great disappoint as it means that Boston Borough Council now barely hears the voice of its members.
Only the Labour group remains active in this respect unless you count the council’s own propaganda – which we don’t.
Whilst Labour blogs daily during the week, the content often takes the form of a party rant from one of Labour’s top brass – for example, one entry last week was a 1,891 word speech by Ed Miliband which you really need to be a party loyalist to stomach.
However, at least Labour compensates for this with an almost weekly locally slanted party political broadcast in the letters pages of our local “newspapers”
Only two other blogs remain.
One is by out absentee English Democrat Councillor David Owens which has followed its author’s example and remained silent for years.
The other – a once prolific piece of work from the genial Councillor Raymond Singleton-McGuire – has also been dead in the water for more than three years.
So how do we keep track of the views, opinions and actions of the people who supposedly represent us?
The answer is that we don’t.
One or two publish ward newsletters, and a few others hold occasional local surgeries.
But most turn a famous old phrase on its head and simply run and take the money.
During the lifetime of the current council, there have been regular calls – again by the Labour group – for some sort of individual annual report in which councillors can tell the electorate what they have done to earn their keep.
This would be very helpful, in that voters could see just how much effort they are getting from the people who allegedly serve them.
This would leave many of our elected members looking remarkably lacklustre and inefficient, and so it is scarcely surprising that there is no enthusiasm for the idea.
With one or two exceptions, we never read of our councillors doing anything for their wards in the local press, and on the rare occasions that they gather for meetings none of them ever seems to have much to say, and most business seems to take place away from the public eye.
And whilst our local politicians witter on about importance of internet and better broadband for Lincolnshire they fail – in spades – to make use of the medium.
Having said that, when they do speak, we sometimes wonder why they bothered.
Three recent episodes recently came to our attention –all involving Conservative councillors of a high degree of seniority in the Worst Street machine.
In the first a voter discussed a couple of issues during a chance meeting.  In response to the result of the recent European elections he was told “you never know what is going to happen next year.”
“I asked ‘why don't you know, as everyone else does?’ and I told him point blank, that he will be out of one of his jobs at which he was most aggressive in his reply.
“I also spoke to him regarding what's happening to the fishermen when the Boston barrier is set in place, and he replied that they would have to go with the flow of the tide.
“I also asked what went wrong on the 5th December last year when the town was flooded. He didn't have the guts to say that contractors working in High Street and London Road had left a gap under the wall allowing water to flood the area.
“Then he continued to say that there would not have been any floods had the Port not allowed a number of ships to enter the river and proceed up to the docks pushing millions of tons of water into the town and causing all the flood damage.
“I just wonder if Boston Borough Council is claiming off the insurance of Boston Docks”
Another councillor to show off their feeble communication skills did so in response to a perfectly reasonable question by a ward resident concerned at bad parking manners in a local street.
Not unreasonably, the councillor was asked if the problem could be drawn to the attention of one of our increasingly useless PCSOs.
Back came the one line reply: “NOT MY PROBLEM COUNTY COUNCIL ROADS”
Aside from the fact that the writer presumably means the county’s Highways Department, and was sufficiently long in “service” to know this, the fact is that whilst County Hall is responsible for parking enforcement, visits by their wardens are few and far between, and tend to focus on the town centre, where much more ticket money is there for the taking.
A word with the local PCSO should have been all in a day’s work for a councillor who was really interested in the job.
We also note that the unpunctuated, barely fluent reply was written in capital letters – which in e-mails indicates that the writer is shouting, and is taken as an offensive way of replying by many internet users.
Could this have been intentional, we wonder?
Last – and by all means least – was the justification that we heard expressed recently during a discussion on whether to find some way to exempt market traders from the 20p charge they now pay to use the town’s Central Park toilets – which was waived whilst the premises were manned.
The quaint argument to justify the charge went along the following lines …
… in days of yore, low paid workers earned 30 shillings – that’s £1.50 – for a 46½ hour week, and were charged one old penny to use the toilet … which is equivalent to just over 85p today ...
… users of the toilets are therefore paying 65p less than they might be charged.  
Talk about getting bogged down!
Of course, better rhetoric is always forthcoming from politicians higher up the political food chain.
They don’t come much higher than MP Mark Simmonds – or so he appears to think, as he recently told us how grateful we should be that he is the first local MP to achieve ministerial status.
His job in the Foreign and Commonwealth office apparently included responsibility for overseeing security preparations for England fans visiting Brazil for the World Cup, which involved a visit and tour of the Sao Paulo stadium where England met Uruguay.
His party political column in one of our local “newspapers” recently waffled on about how he would be watching England play, and what a supporter and football fan he was, and how right it was for the government to do everything to ensure that England fans were safe in Brazil.
But then … just in case we might be upset at the thought  he might take the chance to mix business with pleasure, an asterisk at the end of the piece told us … “Mark will not be attending any games in person.”
A minister he may be – but don’t you think that final line reeks of insecurity and lack of confidence?
And to us, it seems almost silly to be in the country and not watch a match – did he just sit in his hotel room in front of the TV instead?
How infuriating that Lincolnshire County Council is starting yet another spate of road works whilst we are still shoulder deep in the chaos caused by the John Adams Way/Main Ridge debacle.
As always, a spokesman at County Hall says the “improvements” on Fydell Street, Tattershall Road, Grand Sluice Bridge, Irby Street, and Norfolk Street, – which overlap the present ones … will be carried out in different phases to minimise disruption as much as possible.
The exact quotation said:  This is a very important piece of work that will improve several of the major roads in Boston.
“We have planned this work to coincide with another project being carried out in the same area by National Grid so we can minimise disruption to local people as much as possible.
“I would, however, like to take this opportunity to apologise to anyone inconvenienced by these road closures”
If that sounds familiar, then it should do.
Ahead of the Main Ridge works  – which descended on the area in a single operation, without any sign of the promised planned staging, and which have cost local businesses thousands of pounds in lost income –  we were told: “This is a very important piece of work that will improve several of the busiest roads in Boston. We have tried to structure the works to reduce disruption as much as possible, but I apologise if they cause you any inconvenience.”
We have often expressed the view that Worst Street’s Head Office regards Boston with contempt – and surely, this proves it.
Lincoln’s dismissive attitude is why we feel that the approach by Mayor Alison Austin to the leader of the county council for some action on our traffic problems after the recent road accident on the A16 Spalding Road – which saw the road closed for three hours and brought traffic to a complete standstill across the town – will fall on deaf ears.
This was not the first time that something like this has happened, and we all know how an often minor incident can logjam the Boston traffic system.
One problem is that no-one in Lincoln seems to understand just how bad things can get in Boston  – but then, having just had a  £30m project to build a relief road through the centre of the city signed off by the government – why should anyone care?
It’s such a lot of money, and yet the outcome will be to allow drivers to travel the few hundred yards between Lincoln University and Pelham bridge, just to avoid the railway level crossing.
Just think how much further a sum like that would go in Boston.
One other point.
After the A16 accident, Lincolnshire Police called for patience while a forensic examination was carried out at the scene.
Understanding and patience at such times is of course essential.
But is there really any need in these high-tech days for a forensic examination to require a three hour road closure –as long as it took 20 years and more ago when everything was done with tape measures, box Brownie cameras, string and wooden pegs.
Still with things to do with traffic – and also taking a leaf  from the book of other Lincolnshire local authorities, which we mentioned earlier – it was interesting to see the car park information below pictured on the Facebook page of Councillor Richard Davies, Lincolnshire’s portfolio holder for highways, transport and IT.
Whilst Boston Borough Council continually bemoans the falling income caused by its greedily high car parking charges, neighbouring South Holland appears to believe in keeping prices low – this four-hour charge is lower than many of Boston’s charges for an hour’s short-stay parking.
Note that the charges cover Monday to Saturday, which means free parking on Sunday – unlike Boston – and that blue badge holders pay nothing, and can use any bay. Not only that, but with a few exceptions, blue badge holders can park for any amount of time … unlike parsimonious Boston which allows a so-called free extra 30 minutes for the disabled to crawl back to their cars.
Boston Borough should take note, take action, and make life cheaper for us all.
But don’t hold your breath!
In our last blog we mentioned the pathetic planters that are dragged around the Market Place to marshal the traffic, and now we hear that a couple of them have broken because they are being constantly moved. And what they are going to be replaced with? You’ve guessed it.
In the way that Frank Sinatra was famous for an apparently endless number of “final” appearances, we have to say that we have lost count of the number of times we have had one last chance to get a free flood protection kit that doesn’t actually work quite as it should unless steeped in tap water before being used.
So we fervently hope that the promised “final chance” publicised last week was just that.
But bad luck if you’ve already signed up for Environment Agency flood alerts and made a flood plan, and weren’t in the area which flooded last year.
The penalty for your foresight is that you don’t qualify for a free kit.
But for obese Boston, the council offered a bonus – some help with meal planning during any flooding crisis!

A food resilience officer eh! Sounds yummy!
 Finally, we wrote earlier about the spendthrift Boston Town Area Committee, and it was with a sense of wry amusement that we noticed  a borough council report on the recent two-day Robin Hood medieval enactment staged by Boston Woods Trust, and featuring the Knights of Skirbeck.
According to Boston Borough Council, the woods were “transformed into Nottingham Forest for the day” – we thought at first that it must have taken quite some effort to turn trees into a football team, but then we realised that the council probably meant to say Sherwood Forest.
“The Knights thanked Boston Woods Trust for inviting them, and look forward to a skirmish with the evil Sheriff again next year,” the report oozed on.
“Invited” seems a strange way to describe being paid £350 to appear, which the Trust received as part of a £500 BTAC grant application.
And we wondered whether the Knights had had time since their own grant application was approved at the same meeting to buy any of the £880 worth of equipment funded by BTAC – including a single traditional longbow costing £250 and a replica Witham sword for £200.
Robin Hood might have been proud of BTAC – except that their policy appears to be to rob the poor taxpayers, then give it away to people who charge for their services.
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1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 28, 2014

    Unfortunately it does not matter how staged the work is around the Sluice Bridge, the fact is the bridge is to be shut for a week. Therefore no through traffic. As residents of the immediate area information has been very lacking and mostly wrong.