ast week we quoted town centre and car park portfolio holder Councillor Derek “Knocker” Richmond’s take on the “huge early Christmas present” from Boston Borough Council of a few hours’ worth of free parking in the run-up to the big event.
“This represents a Christmas present from the council to Boston,” he blared. “The town has a tremendously varied shopping offer – from small family-owned traditional retailers through to main multi-nationals.
“With free parking located conveniently close there should be no reason to want to go anywhere else.”
Whilst all local councillors are issued with rose-coloured spectacles when they are elected, a decision to wander around and plan our Christmas shopping based on his claim led us to conclude that Councillor Richmond’s pair had an especially generous tint.
In last week’s bright Sunday sunshine, we got rather a shock.
A stroll along Dolphin Lane revealed empty shop after empty shop with “to let signs” rather than goodies in the window.
We counted six such shops – almost half of those available in a lane that’s sometimes compared with the medieval streets of York.
A shambles it was – The Shambles it ain’t.
Dolphin Lane’s counterpart across the Market Place – Emery Lane – is also bereft. Its biggest shop – the former Yates and Greenhough has been empty for more than two years, and kitchen fitters Murdoch Troon is also vacant. The rest of the street “offer” includes Cash Generator, a sex shop, a charity shop, a nail bar, tattooist, pet shop and jewellery shop.
A view across the Market Place, with the empty Millets at your back and a turf accountant to your right shows the vacant Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop, a fast food shop, a café , a charity shop, a betting shop, a vacant shop, a health food shop, a jewellery shop and a café.
Frequently, we are told that the number of vacant shops in Boston is no worse than the national average.
But the people telling us this fail to note how little is actually on offer once the charity shops (there are nine in the town,) mobile phone shops … one of which is newly vacant in Strait Bargate, which leaves only five – and food shops are taken out of the picture.
We have Oldrids, of course, but beyond that a hotchpotch of generic High Street stores that are barely beating the business downturn – although with Christmas in mind, there are, at least plenty of card shops to choose from – seven of ‘em.
If the idea seriously is to make the place attractive, we need to spend some money on camouflaging the eyesores in our town centre in the run up to Christmas.
Look at this picture of the Dolphin Lane window of the former Millets which fronts on to the Market Place.
More than four years ago Boston Borough Council wasted a £52,000 government grant to make more than 25 disused shops presentable with temporary window dressing.
In the next story you will read how easy it is for Boston Borough Council to find £10,000 in “savings” to fund a publicity campaign for yet another attempt to curb street drinking that it almost certainly doomed to failure.
How about finding a similar amount to at least make our ghost town centre look attractive for the festive season?
As far as Christmas is concerned, if your dad’s really rich and you want a cowboy outfit – why not ask him to buy you Boston Borough Council?
f the report that follows sounds familiar, that’s because “it's like deja-vu, all over again.”
The quote by American baseball star Yogi Berra (**see footnote) who was famed for his malapropisms, sprang to mind as we read the agenda for yesterday’s Environment and Performance Committee concerning the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 which comes into force on Monday.
A main plank of the act is the Public Spaces Protection Order – designed to stop individuals or groups committing anti-social behaviour in a public space.As usual, Boston Borough Council is looking at an expensive sledgehammer to crack a nut with every indication that whatever they do will fail in the same way that similar efforts have done in the past.
A report to the committee outlined a laborious timetable for all of this which if it goes ahead will cost up to £10,000 to publicise – including providing signs, information and literature about the proposed order – a sum which our cash-strapped council can apparently find without any trouble from savings in the current financial year.
The PSPO replaces the DPPO – the designated public place order which came into force in Boston at the end of December 2007 and which cost thousands of pound to publicise on that occasion.
The waffle irons were out in force in the early days of the DPPO – but looking back we can find no evidence of fines being issued or of any real dent in the problem of drinking in the street.
But, of course, according to the social astrologers, all this will change once the DPPO becomes a PSPO.
Or will it?
It was pointed out with monotonous regularity over the years that the DPPO was not a ban on drinking in public – but if someone was seen drinking by a police officer and asked to stop, it was an offence not to comply, and police could also confiscate the demon drink.
But as ever, the Devil is in the detail.
If a PSPO is created, “it is an offence for a person, without reasonable excuse, to do anything that the person is prohibited from doing by a PSPO other than consume alcohol.”
It is not an offence to drink alcohol in a controlled drinking zone.
But it is an offence to fail to comply with a request to cease drinking or surrender alcohol in a controlled drinking zone.
Are you following so far?
e hope so, because it gets sillier from this point on.
Where drinking is concerned, the enforcing officer will be a police officer – although in other instances of breaches of the order, fixed penalty notices can also be issued by PCSOs, council officers, or any other Tom, Dick or Harry designated by the council.
Whilst the DPPOs did not ban drinking in public a PSPO will apparently adopt a tougher line.
Anyone caught drinking by a policeperson in a controlled zone “will be requested to desist drinking forthwith.”
So, John Citizen is tipping a tinny harmlessly on a bench in Boston Market Place – and when asked to stop, he does.
But this reasonable response will not see him emerge unscathed.
Anyone asked to stop drinking and who immediately complies, will have his or her details “verified” by the police officer who will pass them to Boston Borough Council for recording on their anti-social behaviour computer blacklist, known as Sentinel, and a warning letter will be sent to the person “which will contain suitable narrative.”
The information on the Sentinel system is shared with 19 local organisations, including all seven district councils and Lincolnshire County Council – and interestingly includes the details of anyone who witnesses an act of anti-social behaviour.
Among the organisations sharing the information are Mayflower Housing and two other social housing trusts.
Does this mean that co-operating with the police and handing over your drink could count against you if you apply for a house at some future date?
Whilst enforcement officers of whatever stripe have the discretion to issue fixed penalty notices to “offenders” in Boston, the police will be denied this role where street drinking is concerned – instead it will fall to the borough council.
So … where a person refuses to stop drinking, they commit an offence “and the instructing officer from Lincolnshire Police will secure a witness statement in an agreed form and pass to Boston Borough Council for recording on Sentinel.”
For a first offence, Worst Street will issue a £100 fine, and – if it is not paid – “will consider all of the recovery options open to it in accordance with the law and its corporate enforcement policy.
If anyone is caught twice in any six month period, the council will consider prosecution.
Stand by for the usual headlines – “Council gets tough on street drinking” and all the other nonsense about cracking down.
The report says that Lincolnshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner have been very clear that they would adopt a zero tolerance approach to anyone caught consuming alcohol in the controlled drinking zone.
Is there an echo in here, or have we heard all this before?
Over the years Lincolnshire Police have pledged zero tolerance to all manner of things – most regularly the use of pavements and pedestrianised areas by cyclists, and we all know how successful that has been.
DPPOs failed because hardly any enforcement was carried out – the police are simply not a visible presence in Boston town centre … or anywhere else for that matter.
And this situation seems unlikely to change just because a shiny new law is coming in next week.
PSPOs seem likely to fail for precisely the same reason – but with the added encumbrance of a two tier enforcement system.
Mr Plod bags himself a boozer, then has to prise sufficient information from him for Boston Borough Council to hound him through the courts if necessary – in a cumbersome, top-heavy over-administered pantomime that could be avoided if policemen simply did what they did in the old days and used some common sense to make a problem go away.
At least PSPO is easier to say than DPPO.
The P is silent – as in pstupid – so the acronym is pronounced Spo.
uddenly, the impossible has become possible – and the road works on John Adams Way and Haven Bridge which have crippled the town for the past four weeks will be completed overnight between 7.00pm and 6.00am to “minimise inconvenience to local residents.”
Head Highways honcho Councillor Richard “Bob the Builder” Davies said: “Throughout this project, we’ve been doing everything we can to reduce the inconvenience caused to area residents and businesses (really? – Ed.)
“Although the nature of the work being done previously meant it had to be done during the day, we’ve reassessed the work that’s still required and have decided we’ll continue the improvements at night when there is less congestion on the roads.
“This arrangement shows we are listening to people’s concerns and addressing them where possible while still improving the town’s roads in line with the Boston Transport Strategy.”
We suspect that this is the closest we will get to seeing Lincolnshire Clownty Council admit that it cocked things up, got them wrong and has caved in to public opinion.
Just three weeks ago, Councillor Davies was leaving us in no doubt that overnight working in Boston was not an option.
Repeatedly, and publicly – on local radio and in the chamber at County Hall when questioned by our local representatives – he made his position clear.
On the radio he told listeners that working overnight could potentially double the cost and that with a fixed budget, this would mean that somewhere else would miss out on road improvements.
In the council chamber costs had risen to “sometimes three times as much” – which meant that “somewhere else wouldn’t get something.
“So my question is if any member here doesn’t want their pothole filled or doesn’t want their particular road resurfaced, please let me know and we can then put some more work into night-time working on occasions.”
Somehow we doubt that kind heart councillors from elsewhere in the county sacrificed their set of road works so that Boston’s could be done overnight.
No, this is yet another case of people who think that they are politicians playing at what they think are politics.
After hearing people’s concerns and doing nothing for a month, the county council has not suddenly picked the wax out of its ear and bent over backward to ease Boston’s pain.
And it seems beyond coincidence that by a strange quirk of highways engineering that a point was suddenly reached where work that in the main could be done overnight was all that remained.
However, as regular readers will know, working in the dark comes as second nature to Lincolnshire County Council.
One happy coincidence that we did note is that the new working arrangements come after Councillor Davies appears to have made more visits to Boston in recent weeks that we suspect is usual for him – and from his comments has not been impressed the misery that we have been suffering on a daily basis.
If nothing else, it shows that the guy took note of our problems and has perhaps done something about it.
It’s just a pity that it has to be given a political massage in the process.
And what a shame this this respite for Boston has come without any hint of lobbying or pressurising County Hall from our so-called “leadership” in Boston.
o, will Boston now get something of a breather as far as road works are concerned?
Not if Lincolnshire’s Highways Department has anything to do with it.
As an accompaniment to the John Adams Way/Haven Bridge symphony, the Highwaymen have added a sonata in the form of a right turn ban on traffic leaving South End.
The idea is to improve traffic flow in the town. The trial ban, which began on 21st August, is set to last for up to 18 months – but after six months, there will be consultation with local people as to whether the ban should be made permanent.
As any fule kno this road takes all the lorry traffic to and from Boston Docks, and as a result of the ban on turning right, vehicles heading north from the port now have to do a U-turn around the Liquorpond Street roundabout to return along the A16.
The likely impact of large container vehicles turning so sharply appears to have escaped the radar of the Highwaymen – due no doubt to their finely-honed incompetence.
Seriously, who would have thought that heavy container lorries trying to circumnavigate a roundabout that is not large enough for them to do so might cause some major damage?
Not Clownty Hall’s experts, apparently.
The next question is how much will it cost to repair the damage, and who will be responsible for repairing it.
If the right turn ban is to remain in force, the roundabout will have to be reduced in size.
But whether it is repaired or reduced, the work will almost certainly take some weeks, and require lane closures.
Perhaps, when the time comes, this work could be done overnight – as a token of apology by our hapless county council.
ention of road works moves us seamlessly to the subject of a bypass.
After our comments last week about the debate over who was doing what and when, we have heard from a reader who was a councillor way back when – i.e. in the days before the BBI took control of Worst Street.
He says that the letter to a local “newspaper” was not written with the thought of whitewashing any previous administrations – but was a case of not letting an incorrect statement by former council leader Richard Austin go unchallenged.
“Whilst it is a fact that that previous administrations' attempts to secure funding of a solution to Boston's traffic ills had been unsuccessful, should we describe such attempts as incompetence?” he asks.
“Some people may wish to do so, which is disappointing, especially to those who did the lobbying, suggesting meetings and pushing for funds.)
“But the point of the letter was to put the record straight that Councillor Austin was not correct to infer that absolutely no efforts had been made. That's all. And of course Councillor Austin, not being on the council pre-2007 would genuinely not have been aware of actions which, for some reason, he wants to tell the public did not take place.”
nother part of the debate – that of whether or not the BBI promised us a bypass has prompted another e-mail – this time from a reader who noted some of the quotes being spouted as the party took over.
These included the comment from Councillor Austin at the election count in the Peter Paine sports centre that “Boston needs emergency treatment;” the claim by Deputy leader and former mayor Peter Jordan that the party was “pushing to meet the next Prime Minister;” the claim on 9th May 2007 by Councillor Sheila Newell in the Boston sub-Standard that “the party now expects a new road – probably in six or seven years” which was rebutted in the next paragraph by Councillor Austin, who said “there was never a promise that a bypass is coming – that’s out of our hands”
However, he also said in the same story: "Our borough is no longer prepared to be ignored. This astonishing victory for the Boston Bypass Independents is only the first step on the road to recovery, for regeneration, and for that long, long-awaited bypass.”
We await the second step with bated breath.
he mention we made last week of “The Bypass That Never Was” turned out to be a reference to the so-called Southern Economic Corridor scheme that included a section between London Road and the Dock bridge.
Whilst the precise year is unclear, the available documentation suggests around 2005, and the idea was to take traffic off London Road and continue through the dock area to A52 east of the town.
The Boston Southern Economic Corridor was included in the first local transport plan and aimed to enable “sustainable economic growth” and support existing industries and businesses.
The overall project involved a partnership between Boston Borough Council and the now defunct quango the East Midlands Development Agency, with additional European support.
The original reason for the scheme was to boost the port’s economy and the need to improve the road network was added later.
At this point Lincolnshire County Council was entirely onside, but costs rose to such an extent that the scheme was reviewed in both economic development benefits and transport terms.
We understand that when the idea was put to Lincolnshire County Council for funding consideration it was “called in” – referred back for further debate – by a group of county councillors, who included, we understand some Boston members.
The upshot of the call-in and the ensuring discussions was a decision that funding should go elsewhere on schemes that were not being challenged.
hen Boston’s planning committee gathered to discuss the Quadrant Development a few weeks ago, one thing that was particularly noticeable – apart from the tang of Sloane’s Liniment in the air – was the assertiveness with which any suggestion that the area around the Princess Royal Sports Arena would be a suitable location was rebutted.
Time and again, we were told that for a variety of reasons, the area was totally unsuitable – and yet eight years ago, plans for a 7,500 seat football stadium with two training pitches plus a 300 seat conference facility, 90 room hotel, pub/restaurant, almost 1,000 parking spaces, and a coach park were discussed by Boston Borough Council.
The scheme also included building houses on the redundant York Street site.
The proposal was submitted by the football club’s then owners – a company called Lavaflow – and was rejected on the grounds that no business plan had been submitted that clearly showed that the development, and the other related developments required to enable the new stadium to be built were financially capable of being constructed.
But there were a couple of interesting points to emerge from the report at the time.
The first was that council officers agreed with the applicant that there were no alternative central or brownfield sites within the town, which could reasonably accommodate a new 7,500 capacity football stadium.
They added: “The application site at Boardsides … has the benefit of being located adjacent to the Princess Royal Sports Arena and would therefore form a cluster of sporting facilities.”
Also of note was the criticism of a proposal to provide a shuttle bus between the ground and the town centre on match days for only two years.
This was considered “inadequate for the purposes of encouraging fans to access the site by means other than the private car.”
Yet when opponents of the Quadrant scheme living in Wyberton protested about congestion and other problems caused by visitors, they were blithely brushed aside.
he report on car park ticket machines that we mentioned last week again highlights the lack of forward thinking by Boston Borough Council which inevitably ends in a free for all with council taxpayers’ money.
The machines were bought in 2006 and are now wearing out.
The cost of replacing 28 machines is £105,000 – that’s £3,750 a machine – plus a £9,500 a year maintenance contract. The machines could also be rented instead, which would include maintenance – but the cost of this option is not specified.
The new machines come with all sorts of bells and buzzers which have clearly seduced them at Worst Street.
For instance, a machine can tell them at Base Camp Alpha if it feels poorly, or is running out of tickets.
It can record car numbers to stop us cheating citizens from giving someone else our unexpired ticket, and therefore the balance of our paid for but unused waiting time, and lets us pay by mobile ’phone – which we imagine lit up a few greedy eyes with the news that this would “increase compliance – motorists can pay to park whether or not machines are operational.”
And of course, with an eye to future profit, an “additional functionality” of this method of payment is “carbon-metered parking.”
This style of parking enforcement enables charging based on the car’s carbon footprint with the most polluting vehicles paying the most whilst those with low carbon emissions could potentially be offered a discount.
This is not, of course, a way to screw more money out of motorists, but “an incentive to individuals to move to less polluting vehicles.”
Despite the apparent obsession with greed, it is interesting to note that suggestions by the council’s scrutiny committee include looking at the possibility of having free parking binges to encourage tourism into town, but also to find out how much income would be lost if the council moved to free parking altogether.
There’s no doubt that most people would like free parking, and the advantage of that would also be that there would be no need for costly ticket machines, and traffic wardens could concentrate on “real” infringements of the regulations.
However, the report has also proposed that charges are reviewed over the coming months – with revised fees in the starting gate for 1st April next year.
Despite the greedy efforts to make as much as possible, thirteen of the council’s 23 car parks lose £70,000 a year between them.
Whilst it will be interesting to see what the eventual outcome of all this debate is, we think that it is pretty unlikely that the council will ever abandon the milk cow of parking charges or even reduce them – although there are compelling reasons to do so.
One suggestion that has not been made is to try to retain the more reliable machines for a little longer whilst replacing just the ones that need too much maintenance.
That way, the replacement costs could be staggered so as to be met in smaller outgoings, of, say, 25% every two years – avoiding the need to spend a huge sum every eight.
Similar short-sightedness led to the Assembly Rooms fiasco where, instead of budgeting for relatively small annual sums on maintenance and decoration, the building was left to become ruinous – by which time it was impossible for the council to find the funds needed to make it good once again.
e’ve devoted a lot of space in recent weeks to the finely crafted ineptitude of the county council’s highways department – and the even worse news is that it is not just reserved for the big, set piece occasions.
Even down at a humble level it is possible to be ignored, roughed up and made to feel that trying to be a helpful citizen is worse than wearing a hat in church.
When the interminable road works on Main Ridge were being done earlier this year, what appeared to be a temporary manhole cover was put down on the pavement.
But when the workmen eventually struck camp and left some months later, the cover remained.
Over time, those natives who inevitably regard destruction as a bit of a lark did their best to pry the cover free of its heavy duty fixings, leaving it loose, and potentially dangerous.
We noticed all this because the Boston Eye offices are not far off, and our morning constitutional regularly involves a stroll down picturesque Main Ridge, where fag ends and rubbish litter the gutters despite the council giving the local Placecheck group £1,000 for a state of the art street vacuum cleaner.
On 26th August, we wrote to the county’s Highways South office to draw their attention to it, and received an automated reply saying that it would be “forwarded to the appropriate person for response.”
However, no response was forthcoming.
On 28th September our regular constitutional took a nasty turn when Mrs Eye caught her foot against the remaining screw – which by this time had been prised about an inch clear of the cover, and fell against some railings, badly bruising herself in the process.
Having been ignored by Lincolnshire County Council, we e-mailed Boston Borough Council to explain the history and request that something be done as a matter of urgency, before someone was more seriously hurt.
But as the responsibility lay with County Hall, Boston asked for our permission to forward the e-mail to the very people who had ignored it, which we gave.
This time Highways South wrote to say that the e-mail had been passed to the main Highways Department in Lincoln and a named member of the Technical Services Section had been asked to investigate and respond.
We also told, somewhat abruptly: “ … you have been sending your enquiries to the info email address … the contact email address is email@example.com and they will ensure that the correct department receives your correspondence.”
Presumably this served as a justification for doing nothing – even though the correspondence had been received and acknowledged.
And guess what?
A further two and a half weeks have gone by with nothing being done.
Another time, we won’t bother.
And should anyone have the misfortune to trip and fall as a result of this deliberate ignoring of a potentially dangerous situation, please get in touch.
We will share our correspondence with you in the hope that you will be able to sue the clowns at County Hall from here to kingdom come.
We will share our correspondence with you in the hope that you will be able to sue the clowns at County Hall from here to kingdom come.
final chuckle on a different matter entirely was delivered by the previously mentioned Councillor Richard Davies in Twitter message which read … “Good visit to Bourne this AM to meet potential new Conservative councillors – great to see fresh blood and new ideas.”
Whilst we know that politics is a dangerous game these days, should this not have read; “new blood and fresh ideas?”
(** footnote) Not to be confused with Yogi Bear – who was famous for the quote: "I'm smarter than the average bear"
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