Thursday 09th December 2021,
North Yorks Enquirer

The Leader’s Same Old Refrain

The Leader’s Same Old Refrain

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, offering a contrary opinion to that expressed by SBC Leader Councillor Steve SIDDONS [Lab.] in the local media – the bully playing the victim once again.

~~~~~

On Wednesday 27th October 2021, one of our local media outlets published Councillor Steve SIDDONS’ rather unsubtle attempt to discredit accurate research that has been published (and extremely widely-read) over recent weeks and months by well-informed critics of his flagship project – the so-called ‘regeneration’ of the former ARGOS building on Newborough, Scarborough.

I find it rather sad, pathetic even, that SIDDONS lacks the courage of his convictions – he simply relies on people swallowing his woolly refutation of his critics’ research and denigrates the researchers (“shoots the messengers”), but dare not utter their names, some of them well able to fund defamation actions gainst him.

Such poor fare does not really merit a response. However, in the hope of bringing some openness and transparency into the debate, it will be helpful to the wider public if I address his claims in detail. This I propose to do, as best I can, by interpolating truth between layers of mere assertion. Councillor SIDDONS is welcome to attempt to substantiate his remarks; I hope he will:

– STARTS –

“There has been a lot of coverage – and much discussion – in the last week or so about the revised proposals to redevelop the Argos building in Scarborough town centre.

There have been allegations of ‘done deals’, and suggestions that we are completely ignoring feedback.

I have published no allegations of ‘done deals’ and neither, to my knowledge, has Mr James CORRIGAN and his team of highly-esteemed lawyers and accountants, or any other of a number of credible critics. Councillor SIDDONS’ insinuations appear to be denying allegations that have not, as yet, been made.

While construction costs nationally have clearly risen over the last year, dubious maths about rising costs have been used to fuel claims about the financial viability of the project and people with an axe to grind have used public forums to whip up untruths.

To the best of my knowledge, neither Councillor SIDDONS nor any of his colleagues has raised the matter of rising construction costs until long after these were raised in the Enquirer and on Mr CORRIGAN’s website (http://www.oldtownscarborough.co.uk) and, later, by Councillors Heather PHILLIPS and David JEFFELS at the meeting of Full Council on 6th September 2021. To suggest that there is anything “dubious” about the “maths” published by professional trade-body institutions (see my article http://nyenquirer.uk/officers-silence-is-golden/) is facetious and insulting.

Again, SIDDONS lacks the courage to identify the people who he alleges to “have an axe to grind” and “whip up untruths”. Councillor SIDDONS, in my view, should identify the “untruths” – or keep his mealy mouth tightly closed.

The amount of deliberate misinformation being spread about this scheme is worrying.

It is indeed worrying, and it all emanates from Councillor SIDDONS, his gullible associates and his rogue Officers.

I would specifically like to address the issue of car parking which appears to be causing some concern. Residents of the building will not be issued with parking permits or scratch cards for on street parking.

I see. So it was always planned that NHS shift workers would leave Scarborough Hospital at 3:00am and scour the town in search of a parking space, before walking however far through the empty streets? That students would rise in the morning and stride through Scarborough in search of their cars before driving off to the CU campus? Porcine aviation!

Separately, we are working with the county council to carry out a review of on street parking in Scarborough old town.

Councillor SIDDONS pretends to be unaware that the County Council, soon to be the North Yorkshire Unitary Authority, cannot wait to lay hands on the revenue from on-street parking.

The need to do something with the ugly former Argos building has been on the agenda as far back as 2003. It is not an overnight issue. Finding a new purpose for this site is central to our transformative plans for Scarborough.

It is significant that Councillor SIDDONS avoids all reference to the Renaissance Charter and its aspirations for a proper Town Square, though he cannot be unaware that many of the Charter signatories can be found as Objectors on the Council’s Planning Portal.

However, given the fact rumours and inaccurate information are circulating, I think there is a need to pause and take stock and I have therefore asked for the planning application to be deferred to December.

Is it not the case that Councillor SIDDONS has pushed back the Planning after skullduggery came to light over the many formal Objections that were withheld from the Planning Portal on the spurious grounds that full addresses had not been supplied (though earlier Objections without full addresses were previously published)? Is it not the case that the detailed, valid and compelling content of these ‘sidelined’ Objections instilled such a lack of confidence in the Application (due to be heard next Thursday) as demanded a tactical retreat? Just who do you think you are fooling, Councillor, with your non-specific claims of “rumours and inaccurate information”?

While there is a desire for us to get on with this project, I do recognise there is a need for further engagement so the point of the overall scheme can be explained and clarified.

Councillor SIDDONS may have a “desire to get on with this project”. The truth is that residents are almost unanimously against it.

We are arranging meetings with stakeholders such as residents, business groups and students and young people so we can understand any concerns they have about these proposals.

Only now, after the Castle Ward Councillors have evaded the public and the tide of public opinion flows forcefully against the ‘flagship’, has the Council shown any inclination to engage with the public. Now it proposes to do so with selected small groups and individuals in the hope of winning them over to support its own Planning objectives. Is that even legal?

I urge people not to get caught up in the rhetoric and to see this as our opportunity to finally fix this unloved part of Scarborough.

At last I can agree with Councillor SIDDONS. People should not be caught up in the rhetoric. They should consider the Objections, the Public Questions and Responses, the FOIA Questions & Responses, the views of the MP and the other informed critics.

Together with the complementary proposals for a new St Helens Square and more visible Market Hall, we could transform our town centre. The alternative is that the ugly Argos building will remain for years to come.”

The proposals for a New St Helen’s Square are a contemptible insult to the magnificent vision of the Renaissance Charter, like bribing tenant farmers with an acre of land – and delivering a sandpit.

– ENDS –

Councillor SIDDONS’ remarks are offensive to the many well-respected Objectors, including; six former Planning Officers; his own Council’s Environmental Officer; several of the leading signatories to the Renaissance Charter (inc. Mr Tom PINDER – Mr Peter COOPER – former SBC Renaissance Officer Nick TAYLOR – former SBC Projects Manager Doug KENDALL) – former SBC Environmental Health Officer Tony FENTER – almost every prominent ‘elder’ of Bottom End society, including former Labour MP Colin CHALLEN – Fred NORMANDALE – Linda ROWLEY MBE – Ros DYSON – Anita BRITTON – Alison LEDDEN – Danny NORMANDALE – Bob ROBERTS – Andrew HAYES – Tom & Jill WILSON – Tom CLARK – Ken WOOD – Shirley SMITH – Wayne MURRAY – Shirley SHEPARD – David BRITTON – Paul HODGSON – Adrian RILEY – Councillor John ATKINSON – and on, and on: check out the list on the Planning Portal here).

These good people are not representatives of “dark forces” (Councillor SIDDONS, remember, once claimed “dark forces” were at work at the time of one or other of the Votes of No Confidence in his Leadership). They are pillars of society – not “trouble-makers”.

These people, who are, in effect, ‘expert witnesses’, express the same concerns that I have expressed; the same concerns that were unanimously supported by the tenants and residents of Castle Ward at Mr CORRIGAN’s Public Meeting; the same concerns that are expressed over and over again in the North Yorks Enquirer, on the Old Town Scarborough website and on Facebook and other social media platforms.

As I write, the most recently-posted Objection on the Planning Portal is that of a Mr Michael RIVERS (a Bottom End resident who describes himself as a tradesman), who I have never met and do not know. I reproduce (below) his Objection, rather than any other, for one reason only; its obvious and unquestionable impartiality.

Mr RIVERS’ remarks stand in sharp contrast to the fact-free ramblings of Councillor SIDDONS who, more and more, reminds me of that misfit out-of-step soldier who blithely imagines that it is not he but the rest of the immaculately-drilled regiment who is out-of-step.

Comments for Planning Application 20/02167/FL

Application Summary
Application Number: 20/02167/FL
Address: 50-59 Newborough Scarborough North Yorkshire YO11 1ET
Proposal: Demolition of existing building and erection of building to provide commercial floorspace
(Class E) at ground floor and accommodation for NHS key workers and students at the upper
levels
Case Officer: Mr M P Whitmore

Customer Details
Name: Mr Michael Rivers
Address: 4 Prospect Place Scarborough

Comment Details
Commenter Type: Objector
Stance: Customer objects to the Planning Application
Comment Reasons:
– Affected Neighbour
Comment:Planning Services
Scarborough Council

26/10/21

Dear Sir

20/02167/FL Demolition of existing building and erection of building to provide commercial
floorspace (Class E) at ground floor and accommodation for NHS key workers and students at the
upper levels 50 – 59 Newborough Scarborough North Yorkshire YO11 1ET

Further to my initial objection of 25th November 2020 to this proposed development I wish to add
another objection.

I further object to this proposed development for the following reasons:

1. The still complete lack of parking within this development for the 202 residents and their associated family/friends/visitors. When buying scratch cards for the A2 zone I was advised by an SBC employee that the A2 zone is the largest in the area. I asked for a list of streets I could parkin when using the A2 zone and was furnished with a list including the following streets and to name a few:

– Blands Cliff – this is an access only no parking street
– Niso Terrace – this is not a road but a small pathway
– Queen’s Terrace Back road – double yellows both sides of the road
– Spreight Lane Steps – which are steps and not a road
– The Bolts – which is a series of alleyways
– Overton Terrace- which is not a road
– Princess St – which has double yellows on both sides

2. I could go on, there are many more anomalies, but suffice to say SBC and the developers may tell planners this is the largest parking zone in the area but if they were to walk around the A2 Zone they would very quickly realise that the area they consider to be the largest zone is in fact full of
streets with double yellow lines on both sides, or not streets at all (The Bolts) or streets which are completely inaccessible to vehicles (Niso Terrace etc). Suffice to say the very limited parking which remains cannot service another 202 residents complete with all their guests.

3. The proposed development is far too high and will have an immediate noise impact on all those who live nearby. Students are notorious for partying and having a good time with open windows in summer their noise and music will reverberate around the whole area causing much nuisance to all who want a peaceful life. The University of East Anglia is currently investigating complaints from neighbours who live nearby a student block and who are complaining that their lives are being destroyed by noisy students (Norwich Evening News October 20th 2021). Why is it acceptable for our NHS Hero’s, working shifts, be expected to live in a rowdy party house miles away from where they work. Don’t they deserve better? Don’t residents deserve better?

4. What is Plan B for this development when the whole scheme fails, potentially long before the10-year contract the developers are suggesting ends? Universities come and go from this town and NHS staff will not put up for long living miles away from where they work with no parking provided in a noisy environment. The Castle Ward does not need an unmanaged HMO or even a managed HMO housing chaotic people with multiple issues. We are deprived enough already.

5. The public have not been consulted about these proposals, or the use of our money to pay for them. My children and grandchildren will be paying for this development for many years to come. If private business wishes to buy and develop land to turn a profit let private business pay for it in the first place.

6. Castle Ward Councillor Carl Maw admitted in the Evening News 21st October that the Council have to buy Pavilion House as part of the station gateway plans to avoid ending up ‘ with some cheap flats in Pavilion House and the same in the Comet building’. Well Cllr Maw why are you not as concerned about your ward residents, the people who voted you in to represent their wishes, and the monstrosity that the proposed Argos development is? Why is it ok to have a massive 202 bedded HMO (not even flats) in one of the most deprived areas in the country in your ward, on your watch, when there is huge opposition to it? Cllr Carl Maw, portfolio holder for Housing and Stronger Communities, we are your community and we do not want your housing in this ward, it will not make us a stronger community.

7. I welcome the fact that there is a costing review into the development. As a tradesman I understand first hand that costs have risen considerably since the initial development costings in 2018. This development will cost at least a quarter if not more again, all at our expense.

This proposal is contrary to the Scarborough Urban Renaissance policy (Kissing Sleeping Beauty) to create a large public open space in this area. This proposal shows a disgraceful lack of regard for the people in the Castle Ward area, who already struggle with high levels of deprivation, crime and anti-social behaviour and who after a long day at work can spend ages trying to find an available parking space anywhere near their home.

Michael Rivers

What Councillor SIDDONS seems unable to grasp is that every time he steps out with a view to exploiting the media, he comes across not as the brilliant statesman (who exists only in his own mind), but as a rather jaded and insubstantial snake-oil salesman who has fallen foul of Trading Standards. He has not got a clue. His legacy will be only that he has made Labour unelectable in Castle Ward. Bravo!

Comments are closed.