Skate park reaction
I WAS present at the planning committee last Thursday when the skatepark planning application was refused and I was appalled at the conduct of the majority of the councillors.
I WAS present at the planning committee last Thursday when the skatepark planning application was refused and I was appalled at the conduct of the majority of the councillors. They treated the planning process, the considered views of the planning officers, the decision of the town council, and the very considerable efforts of the Portishead Skatepark Project with complete contempt.
It was clear from the conduct of the majority of councillors at the meeting that they disregarded their duty to consider the application on its merits and arrive at a fair and considered judgement of the quality of the application in reference to planning guidance and council policies.
Reference to the fact that the skatepark did not yet have landlord's consent from North Somerset Council as the landowner of the Lake Grounds was irrelevant to the application and was particularly devious as officers of the council have been expressly forbidden to discuss any aspects of the skatepark's siting, construction or maintenance with the project until the planning application has been approved.
Reference to alternative sites was also irrelevant as the application has to be determined in light of the chosen location. Again this was also devious as the councillors, especially those from Portishead, knew very well that an exhaustive process over three years had revealed only two suitable sites that were potentially available to the project. The other site at Kilkenny Fields was turned down by the executive member responsible at the time who encouraged the project to find a suitable site at the Lake Grounds and gave the project leave to submit the application for the chosen site.
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The skatepark project has spent �4,000 on employing a landscape architect experienced in skatepark design and construction to draw up a design that would be appropriate to the location adjoining the esplanade, would be as quiet as possible, blend in with the contours of the area, and be attractively landscaped to meet the very high standards demanded for such a prominent location. None of this money has come from public funds and has been raised through bag packing, raffles, sponsored events, and other local fund-raising initiatives, much of it through the efforts of the young people of Portishead.
A professional report was submitted to the planning department and this was followed by considerable discussion and negotiation particularly with the police to arrive at an application that fully met all the council policies and planning criteria and was supported by the local community policing team.
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All this hard work by a small group of community minded people and large group of young skaters and bladers was completely ignored by most of the councillors on Thursday.
Those councillors that voted to refuse this application displayed a complete disregard for the planning process and a disregard for the wishes and needs of the young people of Portishead and their many parents and supporters. They apparently give far more weight to the 18 people who objected to the application than to the more than 400 people who sent messages of support.
I am still mystified why our sister towns of Clevedon and Nailsea can have similar sized skateparks in their main parks and in Clevedon's case in a similar location close to the seafront yet the Lake Grounds is completely unacceptable. It is particularly sad that a few councillors are prepared to use the power conferred on them by the electorate to thwart the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Portishead residents and deny the young people of this town a much needed facility.
West Hill, Portishead