We had an ordinary FTC meeting last night. What wasn't ordinary was the fact we had 40 or 50 members of the public in attendance. It was great to see so many people interested in the workings of their local council and being willing to engage in a conversation - in particular about the future of the closed Park Lane play area and the council's wider play strategy.
The planned agenda was moved around to accommodate those members of the public wishing to speak and to ensure that people could hear the various debates about the Park Lane proposed sale etc.
The members of the public that spoke largely had the same message which was - 'please place things on hold whilst a wider consultation takes place.'
There was also a consensus that there was a need for a broad discussion and a reasonable conversation. No one took much persuasion - in fact many of us would have suggested it whether or not members of the public had requested it.
The council voted overwhelmingly to put the brakes on the proposed sale of Park Lane and to embark on a Frodsham wide consultation regarding the play strategy and whether money should be raised by selling 'surplus' land. What happens next will depend on what emerges from the consultation.
The exact format of the consultation and the questions to be asked will need to be determined. FTC looks set to retain external consultants (not Groundworks) to devise the questionnaire and to carry out the consultation. The intention expressed last night was for a letter drop through every letter box in Frodsham.
For me it makes sense that, within reason, the proposed consultation covers more than the play strategy, Park Lane, and Churchfields. We have other closed play areas such as along Ship Street. It makes sense that we ask the people of Frodsham about the future for these sites too. Consultations are difficult to get right, are often expensive, and those on the receiving end have to be 'engaged' otherwise the consultation will end up in the bin as nothing more than a waste of money.
One of the suggestions I put forward for the Park Lane site was whether FTC should look to 'give' or 'sell' that site to the Castle Park Trust in return for FTC becoming some sort of co-trustee for Castle Park alongside CWaC. It is important to point out that I am the Chairman of the Castle Park Trust Executive - so I am wearing at least 'two hats' when I make that suggestion. Castle Park Trust could potentially use the land as a car park. However this is only one idea - and a very sketchy informal one at that. Lets hear many suggestions please.
There were many heartening things that emerged from last night's meeting - including an increasing consensus about the facts how Park Lane came to be purchased by the old Parish Council.
A personal plea - the CWaC Local Plan which will guide development in and around Frodsham and the wider CWaC Borough is open for consultation at the moment. The closing date for that consultation is 1 November 2013. This is a very important 'once in a generation' plan which should interest absolutely all of us living in Frodsham. It would be wonderful to have 40 people show an interest in that. FTC will have an internal debate on that tonight.