Monday, April 28, 2008

Big Conversation

This letter appeared in the Wanstead & Woodford Guardian on 24th April 2008.

Redbridge Council intends to have a Big Conversation about paying for future developments in the borough.
Their website says that the options will be to raise council tax to build new schools, to sell off green belt land to pay for new roads, or perhaps we would like to sell car parks to pay for more recycling.
Or the “You Choose Challenge” will enable us to choose which services we think the council should invest in and how these should be paid for?
Because this Government has a policy of uncontrolled mass immigration, that is no reason why Redbridge should be made even more crowded. It is estimated that 70 per cent of new immigrants come to London. We do not agree that flats should be built on every square inch of Redbridge as a result, and why Redbridge should be made ever more crowded because of this disastrous Government policy.
We do not agree that our assets, our amenities should be sold. We do not agree that the quality of our lives should be made worse with ever more overcrowding as a result of these proposed council policies.
These are our assets, our amenities which we wish to be maintained for our future use.
The Big conversation will be a flawed exercise unless it allows that our assets should not be sold and should be retained for the community.

Nick Jones


  1. Any asset sales this time round, will be the high value sites, when the same problem arises in 4/5/6/7/8 years time the only valuable sites left will be the parks and recreation grounds, and sports fields, you can only sell these sites once, the amenity sites will be next, make no mistake.

  2. I do not share Mr Jones's political views but, like him, I am worried about this "conversation". I am particularly worried about whether the council will choose to HEAR what is being said (eg the long debate about sale of allotments and car parks in which the council appears singularly deaf).

    Unlike Mr Jones I do not necessarily think that assets should never be realised. Those that clearly serve a purpose should be preserved and, where appropriate, better marketed (eg allotments and car parks).

    Those areas of unused land that have long since served any purpose except for fly tipping might be looked at for disposal, but NOT for development of more grotty, cramped, packed blocks of buy-to-let flats. The crying need in Redbridge is for 3 and 4 bedroom family houses, not more huge blocks crammed together that resemble modern prison development.

  3. Gants Hill Birdwatcher12:55 pm, May 02, 2008

    I don't mind views being taken from the public. After all, we are the people that elect the politicians.

    However, the public don't necessarily know everything and this is where specialists must always be consulted. There are certain local, national and international laws that must be followed. For example, if we had a RAMSAR site (an internationally legally protected wetland area for overwintering birds) and members of the public said it serves no purpose because we need to build more houses due to the number of homeless. It doesn't mean that person necessarily knows what he/she is talking about.

    Green belt land has high value for many reasons. For example, the health benefit to humans. Different plants and animals may only survive on certain types of land. Therefore, you remove a site and you could potentially be removing that species. A RAMSAR protected site could be providing shelter and survival for migratory birds from say continental Europe. Just like British birds that may need to overwinter somewhere else. Would you like your British breeding bird to decline because another country somewhere else removed all valuable sites that would have helped in its survival?

    The web of life is very complicated and to make a simple statement about rebuilding or parcelling it up into smaller reserves will not work for some species. Therefore, politicians need to consider all the facts about a particular issue and if the overwhelming majority of public want something changed and it can’t be done, then it is the responsibility of the policiticians to communicate effectively about why something is not feasible.

  4. Most ordinary citizens (count me in) will not have a clue about the rules and regulations, but I am not sure all councillors are aware of restrictions either. Look at the disposal of statutory allotments: even if the Secretary of State gave permission to change the use of the land, it takes years before the land can be sold, because it must be kept as a reserve should the demand increase. (When I say years, amazingly, there is not a precise figure, around six or seven seems to be about right.)
    There are other restrictions but too many details are boring.
    So, if the allotment people were to change their minds and agree to be relocated, willingly, somewhere (?), the swimming pool in Ilford would not be financed for another eight or ten years minimum. No proper thinking was put in the exercise. (And yes, the first reason provided was the need for a swimming pool.)
    Professional people came a cropper and they want Joe Public to sort our their problems. Unbelievable!

  5. Following the double 'centre' page advertisment in the latest 'Redbridge Life', where the opening paragaph states " Over the last few weeks, a group of seven councilors....[and so on], and the last paragraph ends "all the members of the Corporate Panel are waitng to hear your views, I assumed this Big Conversation was well under way.
    I tried to contact them, alas no contact details were printed other than Redbridge i. I went to redbridge i and still found no way to contact the Big Conversation. I know I'm not very good at using my computer but I tried. In the end I had to resort to e-mailing the Panel individually. I wanted to get into conversation with them, I was not happy that this advert only gave options on raising money through
    1. Selling off council owned land to developers
    2.Sell off the Green Belt
    3. Sell off the Car Parks.
    I needed to find out why we were asked to choose one of these options. It seemed like a tick this box consultation. I felt there were other ways to find money to fund the projects mentioned. I spoke about the Big developers carving up council contracts, as just reported in the press. I wanted us to go further afield for quotes to prevent this. I spoke about value for money, giving the Tennis Courts in Ray Park as an example. The contractor was supposed to have been asked for a refund because he they left the courts in a worse state than when they started. Do we have anyone who actually checks on the quality of work before the council pay out. Lets start saving money before we sell off the crown jewels. I did get a reply from 3 councilors but the overiding theme was they were not ready to talk yet.
    Ron King

  6. Has anybody yet worked out whether there is any discernible difference between "big conversation" and "total silence"?

  7. The top man in charge of the Big Conversation (Roger Hampson) said that he thought that this Big Conversation was not quite as important as the Mayoral Election and it would be better to wait until after the election results. Now that he must be basking in delight, we are ready for more excitement! The Big Conversation is very very important to us. We can't wait.
    Can I take this opportunity to congratulate Morris Hickey on his skills at arithmetical problem solving!

  8. Gants Hill Birdwatcher4:45 pm, May 04, 2008

    Ron, good spot!

    Why is it that every time the council want to ask us our opinion, they first narrow down the choices for us and then make us choose from those? It is obvious what most of the public are going to choose 'sell off green spaces' because they don't understand the value of them. The National Curriculum has been criticised for not giving enough weight to the natural world and could probably explain why some members of the public through no fault of their own have a lack of awareness about such issues. All I can recall from my school days in biology was red blood cells and sexual reproduction. It was only until I decided to find out more about the earth and its biota did I realise how important a part it plays in all our lives.

    Counsellors, as you probably know, but just in case you need reminding, Redbridge has various obligations under the UK Biodiversity Action Plans and the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Also, there are various Species, Bird & Habitat Directives under EC Law.

    From 'Fed up and ready to protect the greenbelt land in Redbridge'

  9. I plan to ask these two questions at the CPCP meeting tomorrow but perhaps some knowledgeable contributors can provide me with the answers:
    1.Who thougth first of this Big Conversation, the Cabinet or the chief executive of the council?
    2. Will the results of this survey be legally binding and be of a higher status than Bristish laws and European directives?

  10. Who is in charge of that Big Conversation? The chief executive.
    Whose idea was it?
    The chief executive.
    Who were not happy tonight? The hard working,intelligent, honest CPCP councillors. Respect to them.

  11. With the "progress" it's making so far (and the council's lack of contributions to discussions on "redbridge-i") any "conversation" will be like ralking with a Trappist monk.

  12. I regret the The Big Conversation is unduly divisive - perhaps our New Mayor can bring some 'Human Meaning' to it.
    I recognize why we have an Annual Mayor, yet a new-leader to the council only 'happens' when the previous Leader is disliked by a secular bunch? Or have I misunderstood the details behind the vagaries of Office by Councillors in Redbridge Council?
    A "Cabinet" is defined as a cupboard able to be locked to deter intruders - mind you that is a historical definition!

  13. Historical or not, it sounds pretty accurate to me.