Friday, November 07, 2008

The true picture starts to emerge as we are drip fed the information....

Last week the council put out a press release stating that it was their intention to apply for funding for a youth media and arts centre to be built on Majuba Road. That sounded great. However, we then discovered that the council are wanting to site this facility on an area that has already being allocated as a bowling alley that they have stated publicly that they have funding for, as part of the Coatham Enclosure scheme.

They don't mention this in their release, only that it would be built on Majuba Road.

Today after receiving the Herald and Post newspaper and reading the front page story, this youth media and arts centre that the council are hoping to attract funding for, is now apparantly going to include a drugs counselling facility, obviously for young people with drug related problems. Once again, this is a positive thing, but there a few questions to be asked and why on earth would you want to have a drugs counselling centre in the middle of a state of the art leisure development?

Why did such an obviously big part of this youth media and centre fail to make the fanfare story that broke in the main press like the Gazette and the Echo? How could it be overlooked?

Easy, because its what is known as 'drip feeding information'. Having a drugs counselling centre built on a site that was designated as a bowling alley as part of the Coatham scheme isn't exactly in keeping with the picture that the council have painted in peoples minds of the leisure facilities that they said were going to be built as part of the Coatham scheme, is it?

When have you ever heard any of the councils representatives say that there was going to be a visitor centre, extreme sports centre, swimming pool, leisure centre, drugs counselling centre, bowling alley? Thats right you haven't. Since when was a drugs counselling centre ever considered to be a visitor attraction that would make Redcar and I quote " A visitor destination of regional importance"? Thats right is isn't. So rather than draw more attention to the real facts when the story first breaks in the major local papers, it is drip fed to the public a week or two later in the freebies, so that the impact is lessened.

The truth of the matter is that there is going to be no visitor centre, no iconic tower, no extreme sports centre even though the council are going to extend the owners of the Mungle Jungles lease to 125 years in a desperate bid to try and raise funding, theres going to be no bowling alley obviously because they want to build this youth centre and drugs counselling centre on the site where that was going to be. There is going to be no major leisure development in Coatham whatsoever and certainly nothing that is being provided by Persimmon or as a result of their houses being built.

As for the swimming pool and leisure centre? Well, the council were going to borrow money £10,500,000 at the last count to build one, but that was before they were demoted to a two star authority and as such their ability to borrow such sums of money, was substantially dented.

The Coatham Enclosure leisure scheme is finished.

But the council are desperately trying to make us believe that it isn't. By putting out press releases telling people that they are applying for funding for a youth media and arts centre which we now know is going to be a drugs counselling centre too, they are trying to make out that theres going to be even more to shout about in the Coatham scheme, when in truth what they are wanting to build there, will be REPLACING leisure facilities in the Coatham Scheme that they have already told the public that they have the funding for.

One by one, the promised leisure facilities in the Coatham Scheme have all gone. The visitor centre isn't even a part of the scheme anymore. This was the thing that was going to make the Enclosure become a visitor destination of regional importance. The bowling alley obviously has gone too and it is obvious that the ex-Chief executives and Vera Moodys statement made in 2006 about funding for it being secured, was completely untrue. The Extreme Sports centre facility has attracted no funding.

So the council are trying to con the public by trying to replacing the leisure facilities that they have already told us they have funding for, with things that arent even part of the scheme. There are many who believe that they are doing this for the following reasons.

First they cannot concede to the public of the area that what The Friends Of Coatham Common have been saying all along has been true, namely there will be none of the leisure facilities they have been promising in Coatham. So they are playing on peoples apathy. Lots of people know about this controversy in Coatham. Most people are against the housing, but would like to see leisure facilities built. If you asked people what leisure facilities had been promised as part of the Coatham Scheme, most would say a baths but how many would say a visitor centre? or a bowling alley or an extreme sports centre, or an iconic tower by comparison? Granted some people, the people who have been following the campaign, would. But the majority of the public for whom the Coatham Enclosure controversy is just an argument rumbling on in the distance, wouldnt.

It's classic 'smoke and mirrors'. As far as the council are concerned, as long as the public can see something being built over there, then they would never know if it had been a part of the scheme when the scheme was first mooted or not. And theres a strong possibility that these people would simply assume, that these were the facilities that the council were telling people that we could only have if we had the houses. It doesn't matter that the things that the council are intending to replace the leisure facilities in the Coatham Scheme with, aren't even a part of the Coatham Scheme and are being provided by the council themselves. All the council are concerned with, is trying to put something there, anything, to give the impression to the public that the scheme is delivering leisure, so that they dont have to own up to what we have been saying all along, that it will be JUST ANOTHER HOUSING ESTATE.

What is also ironic, is that the youth arts and media centre which is sounding more and more like it will be just another youth club, isnt set in stone either. The council are only applying for funding. As always their press release about the centre was based, as were most of the releases about funding for the Coatham leisure facilities, on the word "hoping". But as we have seen with the Coatham scheme, how difficult is it to attract five million pounds worth of funding? Especially in a time of recession never mind when the ecconomy is booming.

They are trying to invent and implement an alternative Coatham Scheme to replace the one that has fallen through, so that people dont realise that the original scheme has indeed, fallen through.
An improved boating lake that was going to cost £60,000 originally, now spreading out far further than it ever was and costing a whopping £700,000 that Persimmon are no longer contributing to. An enhanced Coatham Bowl with a new roof and facelift. And now a youth media and arts centre containing a drugs counselling centre. Who knows what else they will desperately come up with? The council are trying to make people believe that the original Coatham scheme is all still on track and that everything is still going to happen, not only so that the reality of what we have been saying for four years ( There will be no leisure) isn't there for all to see, but also in order to keep us tied to the houses that are quite simply not needed.

It is good that the council are trying to replace the leisure facilities that have fallen through as we knew they always would, with something else. But to try and replace what was in the Coatham scheme with things that aren't and do it in a way that tries to make people believe that the Coatham scheme is still alive and kicking, just to keep us tied to Persimmon and their homes, is manipulation of the public via the press and is an absolute disgrace. Even more so when you take into consideration that there is massive opposition to the houses, when the area is a zone 3 high risk flood area that has to be protected by a £14,000,000 sea defence that somehow our council is now committed to spending public money on, even though it is Persimmons' sole responsibility and when there is absolutely no need for the houses at all because they haven't attracted any funding for any leisure.

The councils old cry was that we needed to have Persimmons houses to have a baths. That lie has now been exploded because we now know that any baths that is built, if there ever is one built, will rely on the council BORROWING massive amounts of money that will have to be paid back by the tax payer. We also now know, through an FOI request, that there is no 106 agreement in place between the council and Persimmon that ties Persimmon to providing any leisure at all.
Persimmons' scheme, even with planning permission, has failed to attract the funding for all of the other leisure facilities that the council told us would come, once planning permission was granted. These other leisure facilities, promised to us by the council and Persimmon, have now all fallen by the wayside and the council are desperately trying to replace them themselves and trying to plug all of the gaps to create the illusion that the Coatham scheme is still happening.

When the thing that whole scheme was based upon has clearly fallen through, when the councils reason for having the houses in the first place, the leisure element of the scheme, is no more, then you really have to ask yourself why this council and Persimmon are desperately trying to convince everyone that all is well and why the council are desperately trying to keep us tied to Persimmon when there is no need?

Its about time that they told people of this great town and borough the truth. But then again, I live in the real world. When you get an ex-chief executive and an ex-finance officer found guilty of lying to tribunals and of sharp practise and the council did not have them investigated but gave them massive pay rises instead, when you have the supression of an audit commission report which showed that we weren't a four star authority and the collusion between the same two officers and the audit commission to then replace this report, being featured in Private Eye, without any libel action being brought against the publication by the ones who were exposed and without the council taking any action whatsoever, when the council have been found to have been 'inconsistent' in the information that they have given under the FOI act, then what chances do we have of them telling the truth without having their arms twisted behind their back?

So it's about time that this whole seedy afair was investigated independently, immediately.

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