So I’ve touched on the proposals to build a pavilion on Blenheim Park previously, and the reasons that I’m against it — loosely boiling down to the fact that I am not keen to see a precious green space and piece of public land given away on a whim to a private entity.
The issue has been bubbling away over the summer, and I’ve heard from a fair number of residents — both contacting me directly, and when I speak to them on the doorsteps — raise that they are really not keen on the proposal. So serious has this become that even the part-time UKIP representative, Cllr Floyd Waterworth, has emerged from his inter-election hibernation to string a few words together on the topic.
As well as canvassing the views of residents — which, despite what the Council consultation might claim, my experience says they are largely against it — I have been lobbying behind the scenes on the subject, to the point that Cllr Gilbert, leader of the Labour group and Deputy Leader of the Council, is well and truly sick of me talking about the subject.
It has clearly done some good, though. At the meeting of the Cabinet this week, the decision was taken to delay the development for further consultation.
Now, I think it’s important to stress that it is not the idea of a pavilion per se which I object to. It is simply that in my view this proposal fails on a number of points.
Firstly, the development will necessarily not be confined to simply the building of a pavilion. As was pointed out by one resident, what this will really amount to is:
“…an area in the park the full size of a football pitch, plus standing room round the boundary for spectators and the pavilion plus dug outs, will be fenced off for private use and not accessible to the public at large. This roughly equates to about a half of the South West field.“
This has not even close to having been adequately addressed yet, and was not touched upon in the consultation — one of the larger flaws within it. This is what I mean when I talk about the transfer of public land to a private entity.
There is also the intention for alcohol to be sold at this pavilion. I’m no prude, and like a drink myself, but I do notice that this is next door to Blenheim Primary School and Children’s Centre. The juxtaposition sits ill with me, and to more than a few residents I have spoken with.
This is a victory, but it’s not the end. The park has been saved, for now, but the decision of the cabinet has been to go back and speak more with residents and ward councillors. Nonetheless, I think we do need to applaud the joint administration for taking this step. They did pledge to be a “listening administration”, and can you imagining the previous Conservative administration pausing and reconsidering like this?