In a muddy field on a cold winter morning, Wirral Council’s Planning Committee met to visit the site for a proposed fire station in Saughall Massie on Wirral Council owned land just off Saughall Massie Road.
Many local residents and the three local councillors (Cllr Chris Blakeley, Cllr Bruce Berry and Cllr Steve Williams) were there to observe what happened on the site visit.
The only person there with a placard in favour of the planning application was vastly outnumbered by those with placards opposing the planning application for greenbelt reasons.
Cllr Anita Leech, Chair of the Planning Committee opened the site visit by apologising for being late and explained the purpose of the site visit and the procedure that would be followed. She asked a planning officer to introduce the planning application.
Matthew Parry-Davies (who works in Wirral Council’s planning department) explained that the planning application was for “a single storey two bay community fire station”.
He explained that access to the fire station (if planning permission was granted) would be from Saughall Massie Road. Mr Parry-Davies described the distances to the nearest properties on two different sides of the site.
The outline of the proposed building had been pegged out. A question was asked of Mr Parry-Davies as to where vehicles would exit and enter the proposed fire station.
Cllr Anita Leech (Chair of the Planning Committee) asked if any ward councillors for the area had any questions.
Cllr Chris Blakeley (a councillor for Moreton West and Saughall Massie ward) pointed out that the pegs that were laid out were for the building only, not the curtilage of the site.
Therefore the area of the pegs didn’t include the training area or car park and that if the pegs had been put round whole of the proposed development it would appear much bigger.
There was applause for Cllr Chris Blakeley from many of the residents.
Once the applause had died down, he pointed out that the nearby properties were sheltered accommodation. He referred to a survey of the people in the sheltered accommodation which had shown 85% opposed to the planning application.
Cllr Blakeley received more applause.
The Chair of the Planning Committee asked if any councillors on the Planning Committee wanted to ask questions.
A question was asked by Cllr Kathy Hodson and an answer was given by Matthew Parry-Davies.
After another point was made, Matthew Parry-Davies pointed out that the pegs marked out the footprint of the building. He added that there were different pegs that showed the outline of the site proposed.
The Chair then asked Members of the Planning Committee to look at the boundaries of the site that were in the planning application.
Moving away, the Planning Committee discussed the proposed development around the building, such as the car park. There was a lot of pointing at this point. Distances and elevations were referred to by Mr Parry-Davies.
After more discussion and pointing the Planning Committee returned to its original spot.
The site visit ended with the Chair, Cllr Anita Leech thanking everyone for their attendance and that she may see some of them on Thursday evening.
Pictures below this article are of the green belt site, banners and people present for the site visit.
Wirral Council’s Planning Committee will meet to decide on planning application (APP/16/00985) for a fire station on land (owned by Wirral Council) adjacent to Saughall Massie Road in Saughall Massie at a public meeting starting at 6.00 pm on the 15th December 2016 in the Civic Hall, first floor, Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED.
What would meetings be like at johnbrace.com if it was part of the public sector?
What would meetings be like at johnbrace.com if it was part of the public sector?
The below is meant as satire, but it’s based in part on true life events.
Editor John Brace: Oh boy, as if I don’t spend enough of my life in meetings already!!!
Shadowy powers-that-be: You called the meeting, so don’t be flippant with us. Wait a bit, there’s not enough people here to be quorate, technical is running late.
Technical: Sorry for being late, not only was the bus I had to get here running late (as we don’t get expenses for a car any more), but I had the sign the visitors book as I don’t work in this building. Then I had to be issued with a visitor’s pass (the reception desk had run out and told me I’m not allowed to be in the building without wearing one).
Then I had to have my bags searched (apparently this is a "secure building"), explain the meaning of every electronic device on me (which took at least fifteen minutes), then I had to wait an age for someone to escort me down twenty feet of corridor (even though I know where I’m going and I’ve been here a hundred times already). To add insult to injury the magnetic locks on the door to this room have failed and don’t work properly (because the software has crashed)
so you need to have the strength of Samson to prise open the door! Sadly as we’re the overworked public sector we don’t have the staff resource available to fix it or even the time to send a message to whoever is responsible to do it.
Editor John Brace: As yes but let’s get down to the agenda, the blog is nearly full. By the way why is the ceiling dripping water?
Shadowy powers-that-be: Oh the rebuild and management of the building got outsourced to the private sector. The contractors after they got the contract said the subcontractors couldn’t do it for the money quoted so the contract was changed at their request.
So in the end we just caved in to substandard work and now the air conditioning unit gives us a new feature the workers have nicknamed "indoor rain". All rather like that TV show Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell except it doesn’t require a magic spell? It’s either that or turn the air conditioning off (which makes it hard to breathe).
Editor John Brace: Well as long as it doesn’t drip on me, it’s make my writing smudge in my notebook but someone will have to get a bucket!
Shadowy powers-that-be (changing seats in an attempt to avoid getting wet from the drips): OK, (by a subtle hand gesture sends an underling to find a bucket) full, what do you mean full???
Editor John Brace: Full as in there’s a 3 gigabyte limit on it and as it started in October 2010, 74% of the space is already used. There are things that haven’t been published because of lack of available space.
Editor John Brace: Not considered to be good practice, anyway that’s pretty full too.
Shadowy powers-that-be: We’ll refer to technical section then for options.
Technical: Well your options are you can either upgrade to ( this information has been redacted because of s.43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (commercial sensitivity)) or switch to self-hosting. The former costs ( this information has been redacted because of s.43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (commercial sensitivity)) and gives another 10 gigabytes of space. If you wanted it self-hosted it would depend on the provider how much space you got but might be more than that.
Editor John Brace: I’d prefer the flexibility of self-hosted.
Advertising: So would we! We could sell advertising then and make more money!!!
Editor John Brace: It’s not supposed to be about the money!
Advertising: Pah, you artists, what do you know about making money, we have families to feed you know!
Human Resources: But is John trained for this, what if it all went wrong?
Editor John Brace: I have fourteen years of experience running websites and see HR treats me like I’m a 16 year old GCSE student here on work experience!
If you insist, add it as a risk to the risk register if you’re going to be like that! 😛 I really would like to have some time today to actually write something on the blog. Is there anything else?
Shadowy powers-that-be: Oh yes and by the way John we’ve had to freeze your pay, but the Chief Executive gets an automatic £5,000 pay rise each year.
Editor John Brace: What? Did I miss something?
Shadowy powers-that-be: Oh you don’t get consulted on meetings that agree such things as it’s an HR (Human Resources) matter.
Editor John Brace: An HR matter? mutters to the trade union rep sitting next to him
Trade Union Rep: We fully agree with management that people should be paid appropriately!
Editor John Brace: Appropriately!!!? The Chief Executive’s on more than the Prime Minister (and rising)!
Shadowy powers-that-be: Well when he leaves, feel free to apply for his job if you think you’re up to it.
Editor John Brace: Let’s just go to the last agenda item, complaints about comments on the blog.
Trade Union Rep: How dare anyone criticise the hard-working public sector workers!!!?
Editor John Brace: We’re supposed to be here to serve the public, not to come across as a parody of militant 1970s trade unions.
Trade Union Rep: OK, but our workers are under pressure. We could even go on strike if things don’t improve!
Editor John Brace: There are contingency plans in place these days to ensure service continuity even if a strike happens.
Trade Union Rep: Well you certainly read the management memos don’t you!? What about supporting your hard working public sector trade unions? Morale isn’t good and as strikes don’t seem to work any more, we might just try work to rule.
Editor John Brace: I thought (as demonstrated from many, many stories I’ve written over the years) that the public sector had consistently shown over many years it didn’t know what the rules, regulations and laws it operated under were, so instead you just "make it up as you go along".
So how if you don’t know the rules can you "work to rule"?
Trade Union Rep: It’s negative talk like that, attacking the professionalism of our workers which is why you have such a poor reputation John! It’s our job to criticise and stand up for the workers, not yours! I mean seriously, our workers can’t know everything! That’s obviously a training issue and the fault therefore lies with an under resourced human resources department and the employer.
Human Resources: Don’t blame us, we just do what we’re told!
Shadowy powers-that-be: John does have a point though and you’ve got to admit although annoying at times he does try to be thorough and fair. This country is supposed to be a democracy so he’s perfectly entitled to do things as he sees fit. However back to complaints.
Editor John Brace: The number of complaints about comments on the blog has fallen.
Trade Union Rep: See there you go again John, showing off that you studied Latin at school and using phrases like sub judice. Why can’t you just use ordinary phrases that everybody knows round here like "I’m off down to the pub for a drink, does anyone want to come?"
Editor John Brace: Because as you know, I don’t drink alcohol like some people do round here.
At the word alcohol, a politician enters and the room falls deathly silent.
Councillor (name redacted because of s.40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (personal information)): Hi everybody, just popping in to say what a great job you all do. So what are you all discussing?
Shadowy powers-that-be: We were just discussing the blog and the Youtube channel, which is two of the ways we tell the public about the decisions that councillors like yourself make.
Councillor (name redacted because of s.40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (personal information)): Ahh yes, John Brace and his TV-thingummy. Marvellous, I really don’t understand how it works myself but the blog and the TV-thingummy is really marvellous at informing the party members what we’re doing. Keeps us on our toes!
Editor John Brace: Now you know why I have massive job security!!!!
Shadowy powers-that-be: You’re seem to be implying that if some politicians weren’t highly Machiavellian, manipulative people so interested in taking the credit for other people’s work, blaming a scapegoat (instead of taking responsibility) when things go wrong, overly interested in criticising the other political parties and their politicians, busy claiming expenses, pretending they have powers that they don’t legally have and instead did things in the public interest that you’d be out of a job?
Editor John Brace: In a nutshell yes, but some politicians are far better than others.
Shadowy powers-that-be: Oh boy, that really sounds like pot calling the kettle black as according to your file, you do realise you were a politician (or holder of public office) once don’t you?
Editor John Brace: That’s exactly why I know what they’re like! I was only for two one year terms of office representing ~17,000 students at a university. I can’t say I was particularly good at it! While I was there someone had the call to refer to me as a "bureaucrat". I mean seriously a "bureaucrat", just because I insisted on a completed health and safety risk assessment!
It was student politics at university when I was in my mid-20s, but there are times I miss teaching the post graduate students and spending long hours in the university library. Those were simpler, happier times in academia. Politics is very different.
Perhaps that’s partly shaped me into the person I am today though as I was trained to follow the Nolan principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
Shadowy powers-that-be: We run training courses for the politicians here on the same principles, but as it’s not mandatory (it’s very hard to force a politician to do anything anyway) so not many turn up.
Editor John Brace: Hence my comment about job security. I have massive job security. I’ll never run out of public sector problems to write about!
Shadowy powers-that-be: Of course from the public sector’s perspective at times you are the problem John! You do realise what a "drain on resources" you are?
Editor John Brace: Imagine if I didn’t do what I did then! Imagine how expensive it would be then! Mere trifles of mistakes would be missed, not corrected and before you know it you’re ending up paying a six-figure sum to a consultant to write a report to tell everyone what they know already! Transparency always has a price yes, but good decision-making is priceless.
Getting the decision right the first time saves thousands (or even tens or hundreds of thousands) of pounds later having to correct it or the financial costs of dealing with the consequences of bad decisions (such as planning appeals, judicial review etc).
Shadowy powers-that-be: But the politicians really hate it when you point out that there are multiple secret expense systems running (that a C-level decision has been made to deliberately not tell the public about) that to be honest even you shouldn’t even know about! I mean that sort of information is supposed to be restricted to far above your pay grade!
Some of the politicians on the grapevine got told that you’re not a proper journalist so their let their guard down and nearly choked on their cornflakes when you started publishing their expenses!
Editor John Brace: I’m unusual yes. Unlike the newspapers, I’ve specialised in local political reporting with a bit of court reporting too. The term is "new media journalist", although you can also use blogger (even though I’m not too keen on the term). As I also run the Youtube channel that would make me "broadcast journalist" too.
No I think what the politicians have got used to are newspaper journalists and rarely local radio or TV who don’t get be wrong do a good job but in the main are under too much time pressure to spend months of investigative journalism on a story.
Newspaper journalists turn up to public meetings when they’re invited and write about one particular item that they’re asked to. Then it appears in the newspaper and also on the newspaper’s website. That to me sounds more like proactive public relations than holding the powers that be to account.
Investigative journalism seems to be (sadly) a dying art in this country and one investigative journalist is probably enough to give many politicians nightmares.
Anyway MP’s expenses are published so why not councillors too? Why shouldn’t the public be able to see what they’re claiming in allowances and expenses (after all it’s the public money that they’re spending) and why do public bodies break the law and deliberately understate on their website the annual amounts for councillors (in breach of the regulations)?
Shadowy powers-that-be: Yes, I have no doubt that it was a story in the public interest. But you brought up the discrepancies between the figures for councillor’s allowances and expenses in the draft statement of accounts compared to what was being stated!
You exposed multiple secret expenses system! Councillor Niblock has been seen getting a lift to a meeting rather than a taxi! Your journalism is leading to changes in politicians’ behaviour and that is dangerous!
Editor John Brace: Well isn’t that good as it saves the public sector money?
Shadowy powers-that-be: Good for your reputation as a journalist maybe, but we think you’re being too militant about it, you’re driving up public sector audit costs and not being diplomatic towards the politicians. I mean making an objection about the accounts to the auditor because they don’t add up! I mean seriously!? When have public sector accounts ever added up?
Editor John Brace: Well they should add up!
Shadowy powers-that-be: In an ideal world yes, but management made a decision that to a proper job with the accounts would be an "unreasonable use of scarce resources". Politicians made it clear to us to cut the back office jobs like payroll (but not councillor expenses we’ve protected that spending), accounting and legal, so that’s the reason why!
Editor John Brace: So you’re saying, people above my pay grade deliberately turned a blind eye to multiple secret expenses system for paying expenses to politicians that was deliberately understating the true amounts that the public wasn’t to know about? This was all done to "protect frontline staff"?
Shadowy powers-that-be: Yes. On the instructions of the politicians.
Editor John Brace:: So why wasn’t I told?
Shadowy powers-that-be: Because it was supposed to be a secret.
Shadowy powers-that-be: Well there you go again, doesn’t your legal department ever just take the a day off!? You must have more legal people on your payroll than we do!
Yes that’s why it was meant to be kept a secret. It was fine as it was because nobody outside knew about it. Until you opened your great big mouth and told the public! Are you a manager or a journalist?
Editor John Brace: Both.
Shadowy powers-that-be: So who’s your line manager?
Editor John Brace: I don’t have one.
Shadowy powers-that-be: Well if you had a line manager, you’d realise that the politicians answer to the people and senior management answer to the politicians. Senior management do not like being made redundant (at the instructions of a politician)! Apparently you don’t answer to anybody!
Editor John Brace: I prefer it that way, concepts like editorial independence and freedom of the press may sound old-fashioned but it’s better that way. I’m answerable to my wife!
Shadowy powers-that-be: We’re all answerable to our wives but that’s not the point!
Editor John Brace: Anyway, this meeting has gone on far too long. It’s time I got back to writing!
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