Saturday, April 24, 2010

VICTORY!!! But what happens now?

It has been approximately six weeks since the Supreme Court of England, the highest court in this land, ruled unanimously in our favour so ending the 'disastrous' to quote Vera Baird, Coatham housing scheme and our five and a half year campaign.

All five Supreme Court judges ruled that the land in Coatham should be registered as a village green and all five judges stated that not only had we fulfilled all of the criteria to have the land registered as a village green, we had done so when we first applied to have the land registered in 2005? Five of the most senior judges in this country could not understand why, when we had fulfilled all of the criteria to have the land registered in 2005, had the original village green inspector Mr Vivian Chapman QC, still ruled in the councils favour?

For this the Supreme Court said that Mr Chapman had "seriously misdirected himself".

What is even more surprising to learn is that when the whole village green process was ongoing during 2005/2006, whilst we were allowed absolutely no contact with Mr Chapman whatsoever, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council were direct in contact with Mr Chapman all of the time, even at home?

It has taken me approximately six weeks to think about what I wanted to say and I want to say this...

The Supreme Court ruling unanimously in our favour has now changed the law on two points in this country regarding the registering of open land as village greens and open spaces. Village greens and open spaces will now be registered more easily and The Friends of The Earth, The Environmental Law Foundation, The Open Spaces Society, the legal system, law journals and magazines have all hailed our victory in Coatham as a result of our sustained, peaceful, lawful, democratic campaign, as 'monumental'.

Generations of people in this country will now benefit from areas of land in this country being saved and kept open as a result of our campaign and our struggle and this indeed is monumental. Groups of people from as far away as Brixham in Devon, Morcambe, Sedgefield, Cumbria and York have approached me wanting advice and the knowledge that we have as a result of campaigning for so long. I feel proud and I feel humble and I also feel knackered too!

But I also feel dismayed. Dismayed that despite over four miillion pounds of public money being wasted by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council pushing this housing scheme on behalf of Persimmon Homes PLC and despite me and our group being totally vindicated by the Supreme Courts unanimous ruling, elements of this council assisted by the local press, are still trying to peddle untruths and paint false pictures to the largely misinformed public. Not only that, not one question has been asked about the huge amount of public money that has been wasted.

The Chief Executive of the council, Amanda Skelton, addressed a meeting of the Redcar Rotary club some weeks ago and fed them utter rubbish about all these pie in the sky leisure facilities not now going ahead because the protestors had won and the Coatham Development had been stopped when in truth, the leisure facilities that the council have been touting for five and a half years were never going to happen because they had attracted absolutely no funding whatsoever and that is with the housing scheme having planning permission. I have written a detailed letter to Amanda Skelton outlining her 'mistakes' and over a month down the line, she has not had the courtesy to reply.

The Evening Gazette, faithful to the council to the end, printed the story of the Supreme Courts ruling as it happened but so biased and misinformed was their reporting, that I threatened to take them to the Press Complaints Commission. Their political editor Sandy Mackenzie invited me to send him a press release which wasn't printed for over a week and when it was is was 'coincidentally' tied in with a release from the council which informed us that Persimmon had pulled out of the development?

The Gazette published a letter from someone who basically tried to put our group down with misinformed claims, but refused to print my reply which contained 100% fact which answered those claims? This is particularly galling when you take into consideration that the Gazette then printed, just this week and nearly seven weeks after the Supreme Court ruling, another particularly nasty, untruthful, 'poison pen letter which was obviously written to stir up animosity towards the people who have campaigned against the housing element of the Coatham scheme. What's more they chose to draw more attention to this vitriolic rubbish by putting a picture of the un-necessary fencing which blighted Coatham for two and a half years, piled high on Coatham Common, next to it. I sent two emails to the editor of the Gazette complaining about his newspapers blatant bias and copied the PCC into the second.

Strangely enough, the day after I complained, a letter appeared in the paper countering the most recent poisonous letter?

I and other members of our group on the other hand, have deliberately not said anything and there are lots of things that I could certainly say. I have allowed people to attack our group publicly for stopping this development when I have information that would show those people who have attacked us, that not everyone within the council were as against the scheme as they made out and that our victory in the Supreme Court was as a direct result of their actions, but I haven't.

Why haven't I?

Because now is not the time for arguing, past differences and concentrating on things that have no meaning anymore, now is the time for us all to come together to work out what is best and what is achievable for Coatham. The facts are there, uncovered and made public by our group for five and a half years. The anonymous snipers, Persimmon and elements of the council can continue to try to peddle their untruths and take their pot shots as much as they like but they can't escape the facts and the facts are that there were never going to be any leisure facilities in Coatham save a swimming pool and leisure centre that the the council were going to borrow fourteen million pounds to build and raise council tax to do so.

Our group and I have wanted the best deal for Coatham and now that the houses have been stopped, we can still get it. Now that the houses have been stopped we still have a blank canvass in Coatham, we still have the opportunity, and time, to develop the area solely for leisure purposes something that historically, the area has always been used for. I agree 100% with what Liberal Democrat General Election Candidate Ian Swales said publicly after the Supreme Courts landmark ruling, when he said that the council were going to borrow the money to build a pool so even though the houses have been stopped, the pool should still be built.

Infact, so much do I wish to see no more animosity washing around, so much do I want to see Coatham and the town get the best deal that it can and even though I have been directly against the Liberal Democrats over the issue of Coatham, I have pledged my support to Ians General Election campaign and I would urge every last one of the 2379 people who voted for me in the 2005 General Election, to vote for Ian this time around.

He is a local man who like me, cares passionately about Redcar. He hasn't been drafted in from some other part of the country to contest the seat, he lives here and he listens to local people. My decision isn't based on party politics because I am a socialist at heart. My decision is based on the fact that I believe that he has a real passion and caring for this area and that he would be the best man for the job.

Redcar doesn't need a Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat as MP, what it needs is a local man as MP.

I stood up nearly six years ago to try and stop the housing in Coatham. This council have wasted four million pounds of public money by picking up the tab for things that were the sole responsibility of Persimmon Homes PLC. If the houses had gone ahead, then that sum would have increased by many millions more because this council had pledged themselves to building a sea defence to protect the houses that Persimmon wanted to build and that massive undertaking was the sole responsibility of Persimmon Homes. Thank God we stopped that.

I am proud, not just of myself, but of the hundreds of people from all over Redcar and the wider borough who petitioned, marched, leafletted, researched, attended meetings and who have endured all manner of smears and denegration through fighting this campaign. I am proud of all those people from around the country who have helped us through the five and a half years, overcome against massive odds.

To every last one of them I just simply want to say thankyou and to the people of Coatham and Redcar I want to say lets all come together to now get the very best for Coatham that we possibly can.

Never again let the people of this town and borough, and what they want, be ignored.


Chris Mcglade.

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