“Fantasy & Farce”
- – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reviewing a Statement issued by Scarborough Borough Council in reaction to an Open Letter co-signed by over 100 ‘Bottom Enders’ objecting to the ‘regeneration’ proposals for Scarborough’s West Pier.
On the last day of the permitted six month available to those who may have wished to lodge an Appeal against SBC Planning & Develoment Committee’s decision to refuse planning consent on Leader Councillor Steve SIDDONS’ ‘flagship’ ARGOS project – coincidentally the same day that the Council requested the adjournment of Summonses seeking Liability Orders against BID Levy refuseniks ordered to appear (by telephone?) at Mirfield Magistrates’ Court in West Yorkshire (out of sight, out of mind?) – the Leader has once again stumbled into a massive PR blunder on a scale approaching his laughing-stock “Major…major…major” performance in July 2021.
Lest we forget:
In belated response to the publication of an Open Letter from over one hundred luminaries of the Scarborough seafront and ‘Bottom End’, including members of the South Bay Traders’ Association, the Scarborough Yacht Club, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, raconteurs, jongleurs, pillars of the fishing community and one or two OBEs or MBEs, etc – as well as a provocative article in Sunday’s edition of the Yorkshire Post, entitled “Unrest in Scarborough and Whitby over multi-million pound regeneration Town Deal projects” – the Council has published a Statement entitled “False claims about plans for West Pier redevelopment dismissed as “nonsense”“.
“Fantasy & Farce” may sound like the name of a less-than-reputable firm of solicitors in some long-lost Dickensian masterpiece; it is also the phrase with which the Leader characterises the opinions of these “little people” of the Bottom End. Their opinions amount to “nonsense”. So much for the “inclusivity” promised along with “openness and transparency” when the Leader took office. So much for “respect”. “Disdain” and “contempt” would be nearer the mark.
Within the SBC Statement, it takes less than a side of A4 to encounter the tell-tale signs of the Leader’s prevailing attitude:
“We want a scheme that supports and helps these industries to grow, while at the same time creating a destination that becomes the focal point for leisure activity and events within South Bay.”
“WE want…” – whether those who have to live and work and pursue their happiness there want it or not.
The next insult is contained in the paragraph accusing the Open Letter co-signatories of making “false claims” – as if the Leader’s own many false claims were, conversely, entirely virtuous.
The next time the Leader professes exemplary business acumen, ask him about the success he achieved with his Chester Management (Yorkshire) Limited venture [Company Number 0352765 – archived]. I should add that I cannot confirm the authenticity of the linked document. I emailed Mr SIDDONS on 22nd December 2021 asking him to confirm its authenticity, but (though I know he read my email more than once), I received no response from him. Not a word. I took that to mean that he preferred to let sleeping dogs lie (if only by omission).
Subject: Validation of authenticity
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2021 00:17:57 +0000
To: Steve Siddons
Good evening. I hope you are well?
I am sorry that you prefer to disregard my correspondence.
As you may imagine, from time to time documents are passed to me. In many cases, I can satisfy my commitment to authenticity by procuring the same information from multiple sources.
I have now been provided with some documents that cause me concern. Fortunately, I have, for the most part, been able to verify them.
However, in the case of the attached document, I would like to be absolutely certain, as is my wont, that it is genuine and a true record before entering it into my filing system. It looks like a copy of a copy which may have been in some way altered – in which case, I shall dismiss it.
In the case of this particular document, you are my only possible source of confirmation. Would you be so kind, please, as to review the document and let me know whether or not it is an authentic reproduction of the CH original? Your openness and transparency would be appreciated. Thank you.
But I digress . . .
The “false claims” allegation in the SBC Statement is in three parts, each only a loose approximation of the opinions expressed on the Open Letter, as follows (and I quote):
1) The government has been deliberately misled and that the money is only for town centres
2) There hasn’t been any consultation
3) A loss of parking will affect South Bay businesses
Firstly, the government guidance on Town Deal applications is linked in the Open Letter. It states:
1.12 Town centres may be hit hard by the impacts on retail, adding to longer-running trends and pressures. In particular, towns may want to consider how they can reconfigure town centres for mixed uses. There may be other opportunities to make decisive changes for the long term, such as investing in sustainable modes of transport to take advantage of behaviour changes caused by lockdown. TIPs must include a wider spatial strategy, setting out why targeted areas have been chosen, what is being done to support other key areas of their town, and how this will support the town centre.
The West Pier is some considerable distance (310m, to be precise) from Scarborough Town Centre, as defined by the Council’s own map:
Forgive my levity, but if West Pier really was within the bounds of the Town Centre, the parking situation around Westborough would actually look something like this:
Secondly, on the subject of consultation, the Leader claims that there have been:
“29 consultation and information events since June 2021”
29? When? Where? In Tuscany? Apart from a series of one-on-one conversations between nmaster-fixer Mr Marc COLE (Interim Director of Projects & Programmes) and his psychic sidekick Helen JACKSON (Projects & Regeneration Manager) and certain carefully selected individuals, I have seen no concrete evidence of wider public consulations at all.
I have submitted a Freedom of Information request, via WhatDoTheyKnow.com, requesting the following information:
Dear Scarborough Borough Council,
On Wednesday 8th June 2022, in an interview on BBC Radio York with Georgey SPANSWICK, SBC Leader Councillior Steve SIDDONS stated that the Council had conducted 29 “consultations” on the subject of the proposed “regeneration” of the West Pier in the last 12 months alone.
Please provide the results and ensuing Reports summarising the outcome of each of the 29 “consultations”, identifying the start and finish dates and target consultees in each case – along with the gross costs in Officer-time, advertising, promotion, external advice (legal/engineering, etc), etc, of conducting the 29 “consultations”.
Councillor SIDDONS stated that, of the £11.4 million ear-marked for the proposal, only £5 million would come from the Town Deal funding. Please identify the other source(s) which account for the £6.4 million shortfall.
My request is presently “Awaiting Classification”, which I take to mean it will be ‘deemed’ “vexatious” – for the simple and obvious reason that attempting to verify the Leader’s assertions is likely to undermine his ‘authority’.
Thirdly, regarding the allegedly false claim that a loss of parking will affect businesses; does the Leader imagine that the hordes he hopes to attract to his visionary re-purposing of the West Pier (with the help, no doubt, of the massive increase in footfall promised by the creative efforts of the Yorkshire Coast BID Ltd), will all be trotting down to the West Pier from his visionary Station Gateway on Shank’s pony, leaving their cars at the old Comet building?
Of course not; the present 104 spaces on the West Pier will be reduced (depending on which set of Council figures one is prepared to accept) to 30 spaces – for permit holders only with no detriment to anybody.
Councillor SIDDONS is quoted as stating:
“The claims being made are fantasy and farce in equal measure.”
“We only want the best for Scarborough. A transformative plan for West Pier has been put forward yet it seems a small group of people are determined to prevent an £11 million investment.”
No, Steve. Not to prevent it. To spend it wisely. Not flush it away on what you think is best – like the money flushed away on the ludicrous East/West LGR proposal, or the lunatic purchase of the St Nicholas Hotel (Travelodge), or the abortive ARGOS flight of fancy. What do you know? Not much.
The Statement concludes with the following remarks, attributed to Councillor Liz COLLING [Lab.]:
“We cannot use the money allocated to West Pier for anything else other than what is in the agreed business case.”
“The campaigners seem to want to leave the pier as it is. Next, they’ll suggest we hand back the government’s Town Deal cash.”
What Liz really means is that the business case was, like so many of this administrations’ follies, a work of “fantasy and farce” which was withheld from Full Councils until after the fact for good reason – it does not bear scrutiny. It was the wrong business case. That is what happens when Council Officers (desk-jockeys) develop business cases without reference to those who live and work in the area, making successes of their businesses without any desk-jockey advice.
And, no, Liz. The campaigners do not “seem to want to leave the pier as it is”.
They want it to be renovated – restored, even – maintained, developed for what it is – a working Harbour, not a plaza in Firenze.
They want future-proof coastal erosion protection. They want a serviceable (and profitable) boat-lift. They want adequate storage, repair and maintenance facilities – and they have emphatically not aspired to the convenience of a local branch of Twenchers.
You people need to read the Enquirer. You need to get out more. A man can go crazy hiding behind his bathroom door.
As a PR exercise, the SBC statement is a classic blunder comparable with that of Gerald “Mr Crap” RATNER. It is insulting – contemptuous, even – and about as likely to win friends and influence people as phart in a phone booth. Get a grip!