Vasilis Tsipidis asked a question on behalf of Alexander Cox as follows:
The district council recently decided to install outdoor gym and table tennis equipment a mere few steps away from residents’ front doors at Pioneer Park, Northstowe. This is just a few months after the Pioneer Park was delivered to its residents. The plans for the park featured none of this equipment.
This council purports to be “a modern and caring council”, yet in this instance, council officers and the local members for Longstanton, Oakington and Northstowe planned and orchestrated this controversial development project behind closed doors and carried it out with no meaningful public consultation whatsoever.
Since carrying out this development, officers and members of this council seem more concerned about avoiding another embarrassing judicial review than with actually doing what’s right in terms of democratic engagement with the community.
Will the Leader of the Council ask officers to revisit this matter and instruct the Joint Director for Planning and Economic Development to mediate a discussion between local residents and the council members and officers responsible for this ill-advised development?
The Lead Member for Community Resilience, Councillor Bill Handley, thanked Mr Tsipidis for the question. He had looked at this matter in detail and noted that a range of local engagement and consultation was carried out in 2019 to reach a decision to install an outdoor gym and tennis tables in Pioneer Park.
He referred to the ambitions for Northstowe to be exemplary in delivering positive health outcomes for its residents and that work had been carried out with partners and the community on what sport and recreation facilities were needed in the first phase of the development. The Northstowe Sports and Wellbeing Group, which is made up of residents of the town, had told the Council clearly that this type of facility in Pioneer Park was important to them. They had actively pressed the Council for installation of equipment to help improve the health and wellbeing of local people, including young people growing up there. There was a long-established community forum at the town which the Council had updated on what was planned. The equipment was ordered before the Covid-19 pandemic, which had had a big impact on the pace of delivery of the park, including the installation of this equipment.
It was unfortunate that Mr Cox did not live at Northstowe when the project was under development and therefore could not take part in that process. However, very good engagement was carried out with the local community and it was important to the Council that it support communities, now more than ever, to have good access to facilities that were free to use for all, outdoors, and help improve people’s health and wellbeing.
Vasilis Tsipidis asked a supplementary question on behalf of Alexander Cox, asking why it was that the residents adjacent to the Park were not included in the consultation on that development. He said he had lived there for some time, and at the forums which he had attended no specific locations had been mentioned. If such items were required to be installed, why was this considered after the Park had been developed? It impacted on his property, and his democratic rights had not been heeded, as the paperwork served on him did not refer to the equipment, which occupied double the space originally provided on the plans.
Councillor Bill Handley said he would respond in writing after the meeting.
[The following response to the supplementary question asked on behalf of Alexander Cox was sent to both him and to Vasilis Tsipidis, on behalf of Councillor Bill Handley:
Thank you for your question at the Council meeting on
Mr Tsipidis helpfully asked your question on your behalf and I promised to write to you to answer the other questions he asked.
As I said at the meeting, a good deal of local engagement and consultation was carried out in 2019 to reach the decision to install the outdoor gym and table-tennis tables in Pioneer Park. We have huge ambitions for the town and want it to be exemplary in delivering positive health outcomes for its residents.
Importantly, we worked with the community to determine what they thought were the sport and recreation facilities needed in the first phase of the development. The Northstowe Sports and Wellbeing Group, which is made up of residents of the town, told us very clearly that this type of facility on Pioneer Park was important to them and, quite understandably, they were actively pressing us to install the equipment to help improve the health and wellbeing of local people, including young people growing up there.
It is unfortunate that you and Mr Tsipidis did not live at
Northstowe when the project was under
discussion and therefore could not take part in that process.
Although the engagement work was completed to agree the facilities
to be delivered, and we think the facilities will be a big asset
for the new town, we are sorry if you felt out of the loop.
Sadly, the community centre has been closed to the public for much of the year and all of the Northstowe Community Forum events had to be switched to an on-line format due to the pandemic. Online forums meant the usual informal information sessions which take place before the main forum presentations were not possible. Ordinarily this is where this sort of update on works starting would have been provided. If the pandemic had not restricted us to all but essential visits, we would have also provided a warning of the installation to neighbouring homes so you would be aware of any additional noise whilst it was put in.
Officers have previously explained to residents that the equipment is far from a recent addition, the proposal for introduction of the outdoor gym and table tennis tables is not an after-thought; the location and mix of equipment determined early in 2020.
When the equipment was installed it was under the direction of L&Q’s Project Director. I note that you still have concerns the equipment is not in the agreed location and does not correspond to the information we have already provided. We have looked at this ourselves but I am asking officers to check with L&Q the location of the equipment against the location plan in the licence agreement once more.]