I was delighted to learn that Southampton Test Labour MP Alan Whitehead has finally decided to back the Conservative Campaign for the Council to buy the former Civil Service Sports Ground so that it can be used by local people, by neighbouring St Marks School and nearby Regents Park School.
Conservative Councillors have been pushing for this as it will be a huge boost for local children and the community as well as the best and most practical solution for saving the land from flats being built on it by its owners Bovis Homes.
In a survey of 300 local people conducted by Mr Whitehead over 80% supported the Conservative campaign.
My colleagues and I are now pushing hard for the negotiations to buy the land to start.
Whilst being really pleased that the MP has chosen to support the campaign I would like to take the opportunity to correct some inaccuracies being peddled by Mr Whitehead.
“The City Council must guarantee that other groups and clubs will be allowed to use the playing fields out of school time, in a similar way that people can currently use the pool at Oaklands and Millbrook’s playing fields."
This guarantee has been repeatedly given by all parties on the City Council. Of course we want community access and want any new school to be a community school in its truest sense. There is search facility on this website so anyone in any doubt of the Conservative position on this need only look any of dozens of earlier postings stretching back over recent years.
Labour plan to close Oaklands swimming pool! In their budget proposals for the next year published last week they have identified the closure of the pool as means of savings £160,000.
“The proposal to buy the sports ground is a fantastic opportunity- something I and the Labour group have been calling for since 2004. At that time the Conservative Councillors voted against the purchase. I’m delighted they have changed their policy and are supporting our campaign to preserve a vital green space in Freemantle.”
The Conservatives did vote against Labour budget proposals in 2004. This included a proposal to allocate a small sum of money to compulsorily purchase the land from its then owners the Civil Service Sports Association. The vote was over the issue of all Council expenditure for the year which amounted to about a quarter of a billion pounds. We had our own budget proposals which we put forward which we felt were much better. Despite supporting the Council buying the land we did not support the route of compulsory purchase. A compulsory purchase is like using a hammer to crack a nut. It is also like writing a blank cheque. It is a legal process where the land is independently valued by a land tribunal. Once you have entered into the process you must pay whatever the land is deemed to be worth. Given that the land was in danger of being built on and that this was cited as the reason for the purchase, the sum of money could have been huge. Also there is no backing out of you don't like the price. The Conservative Group have always argued that negotiation and discussion is a better way of achieving a positive outcome. In the end it turned out the the money allocated by Labour was woefully inadequate and a fraction of the value Bovis Homes paid the Civil Service Sports Association.
"Autumn 2006: the revised Learning Futures proposals are published, this time including a proposal to buy the former Civil Service sports ground for use as playing fields for a joint Regents Park – St Mark’s campus. Money is again allocated by the city council to purchase the sports ground; this time the Conservatives vote with Labour for the purchase."
Conservatives successfully gained agreement to add the idea of a new school on the St Marks site into the Consultation. this was not one of the Council's original proposals. Additional money was then put aside in the Autumn following a Conservative motion. This then gained Labour support.
In December 2006 Alan Whitehead decided to back the campaign for a new school. As recently as November he was still considering whether the proposal was worthy of his support.
Anyway regardless of who said what I think its great news for Freemantle!!!