travellers barony park

Dear editor,

Last week’s front page of the Chronicle seemed to be ‘givin it large’ about Kieran Mullan’s suggestion that Cheshire East Council needs to apply for an injunction to prevent travellers occupying the Barony Park, as though an injunction is the “silver bullet” to prevent further occupation.

I am pleased my former colleague, Kieran is at last on board that something needs to be done about the Barony, and also now an enthusiast for action from Cheshire East Council.

I just wish he’d spoken up before the Council elections on May 2nd 2019 when the Conservatives were in charge as I did, in criticism of Cheshire East for doing nothing at all, for years and years, to prevent travellers occupying the Park.

Let’s be clear, I welcome the suggestion but let’s give credit where credit is due; or should that be debit where debit is due?

In March 2015, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published a summary of available powers to Councils and the Police for “Dealing with illegal and unauthorised encampments.”

The DCLG advice to Councils for an effective response was to consider:
– Identifying vulnerable sites —that was done for them repeatedly for Cheshire East Council in relation to the Barony Park.
– Physically securing vulnerable sites where possible — A clear failure at the Barony Park because the Council couldn’t be bothered to try.
– The prudence of applying for injunctions where intelligence suggests there may be a planned encampment and the site of the encampment might cause disruption to others.

There was other advice concerning communication and preparation of documentation which I’ve not listed.

My point is, advice was given to Conservative controlled Cheshire East Council about how to tackle occupation by travellers on its land as long ago as 2015 and it was ignored.

But it is worse than that.

On the 1st June 2017 residents who live facing Barony Park met with Cllr Paul Bates, the Portfolio Holder with responsibility for travellers.

At that meeting residents handed over several documents including a Government white paper which highlighted the need for every local authority to have a transit site.

Residents also made Cllr Bates aware of the sort of preventative measures around Barony Park that would be acceptable and indicative costs.

Photos and video footage were also presented to demonstrate the extent of antisocial behaviour, the impact on residents and the concerns of the settled community and those living in the immediate vicinity.

Cllr Bates apparently assured residents that once Ansa Officers “have agreed if its boulders or a fence or mix it’s a go”.

Ansa speedily replied on 7th June 2017 with a high-level plan. Plans were shared with residents.

Clarification was received from Ansa on 16th Jun 2017 that full costs would be available the following week and on the 4th July 2017 Ansa confirmed that they had forwarded costings to Cheshire East Council. Well done Ansa!

31st July 2017 residents sent an email to the Portfolio Holder (Cllr Paul Bates) about recurring issues and lack of action/updates from Cheshire East Council.. No response. No surprise!

19th September 2017 An update from Paul Bates was requested. He replied the following day to say a paper was to be prepared for informal cabinet. He would advise on timing. He didn’t!

On the 2nd Feb 2018 residents learned that Cllr Janet Clowes (Currently, Conservative Group Leader at Cheshire East Council), had taken over from Paul Bates and therefore a further meeting was requested by residents to progress with solutions. Just 9 months wasted!

A meeting with the “new Portfolio Holder responsible for travellers”, Cllr Janet Clowes, took place on the 9th March 2018.

Residents raised issues about the need for a transit site for travellers, but Councillor Clowes apparently didn’t mention that Cheshire East Council had identified land for one and that it already had planning permission granted for 9 pitches and also failed to mention that the Planning permission would expire in May 2018 if an application to renew it wasn’t submitted or physical works started.

And of course the planning permission did expire, as a renewal application wasn’t submitted and work wasn’t started. Phew, I bet the Conservative Councillor in whose ward the transit site would have been was mightily relieved!

April 2019 saw the third incursion of this year, no progress on the provision of a new transit site and rising tensions within the Nantwich community and local councillors contacted because of concerns that someone might get seriously hurt following reports that children were driving vehicles at members of the public and joyriding around the park.

When I was contacted by the Chronicle at the end of April 2019, I felt it was fair to point out that the land was owned by Cheshire East Council and not Nantwich Town Council and that it was not one of Cheshire East Council’s or Leader’s priorities to protect it. I failed to point out though that it wasn’t one of Councillor Clowes’ priorities either and that the Planning Permission for the transit site had been allowed to lapse whilst she was Portfolio Holder, responsible for travellers.

Anyway, that criticism led to my expulsion from the Conservative Party and just in case anyone thinks there was more to it than that, I’m happy to evidence the letter inviting me to my “hearing” which detailed my “crime.”

So, I’m pleased my former colleague Kieran Mullan is now calling for the Council to use an injunction to protect the Barony Park. He must wonder though why on earth Cllr Clowes didn’t use the power of the injunction, particularly as the Council were reminded of it way back in 2015. He might now also wonder why Cllr Clowes allowed the Planning Permission for the transit site at Cledford Hall to lapse and whether that shows “ fit and proper leadership” and interest in the people of Nantwich.

The injunction is a tool the Council can use but it is not the “silver bullet” Kieran thinks it is. It will work well in combination with other actions the Council urgently needs to take.

1) Protecting the Barony with defensive measures
2) Getting on with identifying and getting Planning permission for a transit site and then constructing it this time.

In the event I’m criticised for this letter, could the critics start to honestly describe themselves please.

I ask that because at the Nantwich Town Council meeting held on May 16th 2019, one of the disgruntled residents who was expressing doubt and concern about the reassurances being given to residents by the Town’s Mayor couldn’t bring himself to identify himself as a Cheshire East Conservative Councillor and Deputy Chairman of the Crewe and Nantwich Conservative Association. A letter writer in last week’s Chronicle, critical of the new administration signed off simply as “Sean Houlston” leaving me wondering if that was the same “Sean Houlston” who sits on the Executive Committee of the Crewe and Nantwich Conservative Association .

Dirty tricks perhaps from a party afflicted by entryism?? tut tut . It’s behaviour that gives mixed messages and will make people wonder about the sincerity of Kieran’s suggestion.

Yours Sincerely,

Councillor David Marren

One Comment

  1. Kev says:

    David, if half of what you say is true, is it any wonder we are in this sorry state, and the incompetence of our elected representatives is unbelievable, and disgraceful. Criminal, in fact.
    I’ve previously tagged you with that same group, perhaps not fairly, when we’ve conversed, but I’d support you should you want another go at securing a resolution…before the electorate do it as a vigilante.

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