At a crowded, and sometimes heated meeting yesterday (Friday 25th July), the Planning and Transport Overview and Scrutiny discussed the decision which had been ‘called in’ by 15 B&NES Councillors. Their reasons for doing so were that having set in place a wide reaching consultation process, the Council, as the site developer, ignored all the proposals and chose its own name.
The scrutiny panel’s role was not to consider the choice of name but the process by which the decision had been made. Kate Wall explained that as the cabinet member responsible for community integration she had had no previous involvement in the consultation process and the decision she was asked to take was whether or not she objected to the choice of name.
The person who actually took the decision on the name was her cabinet colleague David Bellotti, the member responsible for community resources and the person in charge of the Keynsham development. He explained the process by which he had arrived at the name and how other suggestions had been dismissed. While making clear he did not want any connection with the Cheapside proposal, the modern and historical meaning of the word being entirely different, he also explained that the rejection of other names did not infer they were without merit. While the suggestion of Market Walk did not actually feature in the consultation responses, Mr Bellotti re-affirmed that the intention had always been to a host street market at the centre and that this had been incorporated into the design.
Keynsham councillors, as well as representatives from the town council and local residents also spoke during the hearing and it became clear that their concerns were not specifically about the choice of name but the way in which the decision had been taken. Keynsham councillor Charles Gerrish asked why, having simply been advised that all other names suggested were ‘unacceptable’ Kate Hall had not questioned the choice of Market Walk.
Clive Fricker, Chair of the Town Council, explained that there had been close liaison with B&NES over the naming process right up to the middle of May. The next thing he heard was notification of Ms Hall’s cabinet member decision not to oppose Mr Bellotti’s choice of Market Walk. Local resident Judy Grant asked what the point was of expensive consultation if the final decision on the name was not one of the ones suggested.
Speakers also made frequent reference to the recent history of the clock tower at the development. In similar circumstances, local residents were originally presented with what seemed to be a fait accompli. The strength of opposition led to an open consultation process and the people of Keynsham ultimately making their democratic choice of design.
Alan Hale also drew the panel’s attention to a presentation made two days earlier to the Chew Valley Partnership where B&NES explained to parish representatives its aspiration for local communities to have more of a role in their own decision making.
When the monthly farmers market started in Keynsham just over 4 years ago, it was on the old civic centre site but had to move to Ashton Way Car Park when demolition work began. Ironically, Charles Gerrish reported that the move had proved beneficial to the stall holders and many would prefer to stay there.
The vote on whether to refer the decision back to the cabinet member was split with the chairman’s vote decisive in upholding the call in. Ms Hall now has two weeks to decide whether to object to the name of Market Walk or to stick with her original decision. ‘Don’t hold your breathe’ was the message for Keynsham residents from one councillor after the meeting.