Friday, 18 March 2016

Crawley's Pétanque Shambles

The first time I had ever heard of Pétanque was when all Crawley councillors received an email telling us that a Pétanque Court was to be installed in Crawley's Memorial Gardens. There was no explanation as to what it is was, so I had to look it up online. Apparently, it is a French pastime similar to Boules. This appears to be the whim of one councillor who holidays in France, Labour's Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Councillor Chris Mullins.
Given that any proposed change for the Memorial Gardens should be dealt with sensitively, I just can't believe how badly this has been handled and Chris dismissing the concerns of the entire Conservative Group at Crawley Borough Council as "just a few Tories" has rubbed me up the wrong way. We are 18 councillors out if Crawley's 37 (48.65%) and have been elected to represent Crawley. We should not be dismissed so arrogantly.
This proposal has been widely ridiculed in the national press and Crawley's Conservative councillors discussed the Memorial Gardens at our meeting on Tuesday evening. We unanimously agreed to call on Cllr Mullins to reconsider and put his plan on hold, pending a review of both the demand to play pétanque and of potential alternative sites. We issued this press release:       
The entire Conservative opposition at Crawley Borough Council have called on the Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Cllr Chris Mullins, to immediately put on hold plans to install a Pétanque Court in Crawley’s Memorial Gardens.
At a meeting of the Council’s Conservative group on Tuesday evening, a motion was unanimously passed calling for Cllr Mullins to immediately halt his controversial plans for pétanque in the Memorial Gardens, pending a review of both the demand for such a facility in the town and of potential alternative sites.
The Conservative’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Cllr Beryl MeCrow, said “We are not opposed to this pastime but we have not been shown any evidence that there is a demand for pétanque in Crawley. All we know is that Cllr Mullins likes to play the game and is hoping other people will take it up. This could be a white elephant that would spoil the beautiful and tranquil Memorial Gardens.”

Councillor Brenda Burgess (Three Bridges) who has led the concerns added, “The whole way this has been handled has been shambolic and is part of a wider problem of a ‘closed-shop town hall’. We were just told it was happening and that there would be no discussion about it. We want this put on hold before the Memorial Gardens are dug up and spoiled. We want to see if there are more suitable locations such as Goffs Park or Southgate Playing Fields. Why won’t Cllr Mullins consider this?”

Update: the Crawley News has received a response from Cllr Mullins saying that he "couldn't give a f*** what the Tories think."

Friday, 4 March 2016

Our Pledge To Support Crawley's Natural Environment

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about the visit of Environment Secretary Liz Truss MP to Tilgate Golf Course, as well as the commitment from Crawley's Conservative Councillors that a newly elected Conservative-run Crawley Borough Council in May's elections will be a friend to our natural environment and to our rich and varied wildlife.

 My photo of Tilgate Golf Course on a warm October day in 2015

I was very pleased to receive unanimous support for my Motion at last week’s Full Council meeting at Crawley Borough Council, which reflected the public concerns about the woodland management at Tilgate Golf Course. While sadly, some things cannot be undone, I am now expecting improvements going forward and I hope that public confidence can return.

It is regrettable that the Council was having to play catch-up, but now that the Council has caught up with public concern, I am keen that everyone works constructively with the golf course operator to ensure future works are carried out sympathetically.             
Last weekend, I and Crawley’s MP Henry Smith brought Liz Truss MP, the Secretary of State for the Environment, to visit the woodland at the golf course to see for herself what has caused so much upset locally. While we were viewing an area that had been completely cleared of trees, a couple of passing cyclists called out to us saying that the area had been ruined. What was welcome was Liz telling me about the Conservative Government’s commitment to plant 11 million trees during this Parliament up to 2020. This follows on from another 11 million trees than have been planted since 2010 under the Coalition Government.

Liz Truss launched a scheme in December to provide one million trees to be planted in a community programme with schools across the country. Working together with The Woodland Trust the project will initially be open to 7,000 primary schools in England, which will receive native trees including cherry, silver birch, hawthorn and hazel. I think this is an excellent way to involve children in caring for their environment and to appreciate the beauty of trees. 
Locally, Crawley’s Conservative Councillors are committed to looking after our precious natural environment. This includes our woodland and green spaces as well as wetland environments such as lakes, ponds and streams. A new Conservative-run Crawley Council will look for ways to be friendly towards our local wildlife and seek to enhance areas in and around the town that provide a valuable habitat for Crawley’s rich and varied wildlife.