Following the Cabinet decision on February 9th to continue to assess the Lytchett Drive play area for housing, I took advantage of the Council’s Call-in procedure to formally challenge this decision. A meeting was arranged for Monday 7th March. As the lead member for the call-in I was able to address the scrutiny committee and focused on the existence of a covenant which set aside the land as amenity space and informal play area. Although the Council had signed the original agreement and maintained the land they had failed over the years to formally designate the site in its various plans as public amenity land. Head of Planning Services, Stephen Thorne confirmed the original agreement was still valid and that the land had in effect been treated as designated amenity space for the past 37 year. The chair of Call-in committee, Cllr Phil Eades, consequently proposed the land should be formally designated as public open space in the forthcoming review of Poole’s Core Strategy. When put to the vote there was a two – two split with one abstention. The Chair of the committee used his casting vote to ensure that Cabinet would be asked at their next meeting to approve the recommendation to designate the land as amenity open space. Cllr Mike Brooke said: this was a very good outcome for the residents but there is still a long way to go before there is total certainty. Cabinet may, if they so choose, disregard the recommendation.”
Cabinet met on Tuesday 22nd March with a large number of residents present. The Chair of Call-in submitted his report and Cllr Mike Brooke endorsed the recommendation. However, the Portfolio Holder made a brief statement which, in effect, dismissed the Call-in committee’s recommendation and proposed the situation be further investigated. There was no further discussion and the Leader of Council wasn’t even going to have a vote on the issue. Cllr Mike Brooke raised a point of order which forced the vote. Cabinet voted unanimously to continue with investigations for suitability for development. Residents present shouted out “Shame” and left in a very angry mood. Cllr Mike Brooke commented afterwards saying :
“this was absolutely unbelievable. Residents and local councillors were treated with contempt. Cabinet members did not even debate the issue and then voted like puppets. The decision had obviously been made before the meeting, behind closed doors. It is absolutely clear the land is amenity open space and that the legal agreement is still valid. This decision will waste officers’ time and tax payers’ money. They should accept what the agreement states – ‘no buildings houses or flats can be built on the land'”.