Wednesday, May 06, 2009

We had our voice...

Yesterday, I had what I was going to say in the Houses of Parliament posted on this site at 10.20am approximately. We went to Parliament to show our film and to say what we had to say in the Seat of Democracy in this Country.

As I pointed out yesterday in the Houses of Parliament, all of the things that are featured in the film are backed up with the relevant documentation or with signed witness statements. As I pointed out yesterday, we are prepared to stand up and say the same things and provide the same facts, documents and witness statements, in any court of law in this country. As I pointed out yesterday, would we, as normal people, dare to go to the Houses of Parliament and not tell the truth?

Because of the courage of Mr Robert Goodwill MP for Scarborough and Whitby, we were able to show the film and discuss with the twenty or so people who filled House of Commons room B of 1 Parliament Road, the terrible situation that we have here in Redcar and Cleveland. The audience included Mr Goodwill and the PPC for the constituency of East Cleveland and South Middlesbrough Paul Bristow, and also included solicitors from the Environmental Law Foundation and interested councillors from Doncaster among others.

One of the councillors from Doncaster recently appeared on Channel 4 news because of an audit report that officers in their council had supressed. They had attended because they were interested in the fact that Dr Joan Rees, someone who worked as one of the most senior officers here in Redcar and Cleveland, who had been involved heavily in the Coatham Development, had also been involved in doing a report that gave a clean bill of health to a blood stock farm in Doncaster, that like Coatham, has massive questions hanging over it.

The councillors from Doncaster, who knew all about the Donnygate scandal, told us after seeing the film and listening to the debate, that "we had massive problems up here". They told us that we had to be wary when asking for independent investigations because they were sometimes not as independent as they seemed.

At this, a retired barrister pointed out that the issue of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council being involved with Persimmon homes through doing reports together into the gross housing requirements of the borough, including Coatham, and through them employing the same solicitors to do surveys about the contaminated land in Coatham, a year before Coatham development was even advertised as a leisure development and for Persimmon to then be awarded the contract for the Coatham development without them signing a 106 agreement that committed them to providing any leisure at all, when leisure developers had answered the advertisement and had been ignored, was a case for the Serious Fraud Office.

He then went onto say, but how could an independent investigation be carried out by the Serious Fraud Office when ultimately they have to answer to the Solicitor General Vera Baird and as was pointed out, she had already threatened Mr Goodwill into not calling for an independent investigation 18 months ago and into not showing the film.

Infact yesterday, Mr Goodwill read out another email that Vera Baird had sent to him as late as Saturday the 2nd of May, just three days before the screening, trying to stop him showing the film. She also said that she had had reservations about the scheme but they had been satisfied now that the Labour council were adding a youth centre to the scheme.

At this point I told Mr Goodwill that the youth and media centre that she was referring to, also comprised a drugs counselling centre and Vera Baird, once again, was only telling half a story. It was not part of the Coatham Planning Application, it had had no public consultation whatsoever and had no planning permission either and so once again, our MP and Solicitor General of the country, hadn't told him the truth. I also pointed out to him, that this youth and drugs couselling centre was to occupy the site of a fourteen million pound visitor centre that isn't now happening but had been touted as the main leisure ingredient of the Coatham Leisure scheme. It was something that according to the council was going to supposedly make the Coatham scheme a visitor destination of regional importance. It was something that the council had told High Courts and Courts of appeal was going to be happening even though council officer Alan Logan had told a magistrates court in Middlesbrough previous to that, that it wasn't. More than this, it was something that the now ex-CEO Colin Moore had said in 2006, the council had all of the funding for?

It came out in the discussion that followed the film, that it was essential for the council to show, in the interests of transparency and openness, the barristers opinion and the development agreement for Coatham, which was signed two weeks before G.O.N.E had even decided whether or not to call it in. The issue of the lack of transparency and openness was discussed at length. For a council to enter into an insurance policy with a developer, an insurance policy that protected them against THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SCHEME BECOMING PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE had nothing to do with commercial sensitivity, but everything to do with paranoia on behalf of the council and Persimmon homes. As was stated yesterday, how many times have you heard of councils insuring themselves against the truth being known. And it was suggested that an independent inquiry be called for. I personally asked Mr Goodwill to ask questions about this disaster to quote Vera Baird, in the House of Commons.

Another man said that if the council have nothing to hide, then why be worried about being investigated independently?

The process of getting the independent investigation into this scheme and this council has begun. The film speaks for itself. Mr Goodwill knows that what is going on here is not right and as Paul Bristow said, as an ex councillor himself, he just could not believe that our council had done what they had done and were still doing.

We spoke yesterday even though Vera Baird, once again, tried to stop that and tried to muddy the waters. We have been in discussions with national press people and we now aim to do all that we can, to ensure that our voice was properly heard and that what has gone here is exposed nationally and investigated thoroughly.

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