An article was recently published in the Northumberland Gazette regarding the Bamburgh Streetscape scheme quoting our County Councillor, Guy Renner-Thompson. Bamburgh Parish Council would like to clarify some points as the article was very misleading.
The Streetscape scheme, which had been evolving for nearly ten years, involved several public consultations, the last but one being held in March 2017. This consultation indicated 70% of the residents being in favour of the major element of the scheme. In over 200 responses, only 2 mentioned the ‘triangle’ referred to in the newspaper article. The scheme, with some modifications as a result of the feedback, was then scheduled to be implemented in April 2018.
Shortly before April 2018, the Parish Council received correspondence on behalf of some residents, questioning the work and expressing several concerns about the scheme but only briefly mentioning the ‘triangle’. We understand an approach was made by these residents to Northumberland County Council (NCC) via Coun. Renner-Thompson asking for a petition to be held. However, with the time and cost implications, NCC took the decision to hold another public consultation at very short notice. The Parish Council was not involved in those discussions.
The information and public notices produced by NCC made no mention that there would be a “For” or “Against” vote at this meeting and at no time, before or after, were the Parish Council or the residents of Bamburgh told that there would be an online vote. Following the meeting, complaints were made by some residents who, assuming that the work was due to start imminently and that this was simply a courtesy meeting, did not attend and thus didn’t vote. Had they know a vote was to take place they would have attended to vote in favour of the scheme. Complaints were also made that, on the day of the meeting the voting system was a very public piece of paper, pinned to the wall by the door, with sticky dots to be placed in “For” or “Against” columns.
The day following the public meeting the Parish Council became aware that an online vote had been set up on NCC’s website. At no time was the Parish Council or the residents of Bamburgh informed of this voting method by either NCC or Coun. Renner-Thompson. The link to the online vote had, however, been given to the people who had objected to the scheme.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the responses were overwhelmingly against. The only votes “For” were generated by testing how this online voting system worked which revealed that anyone could vote and multiple and fictitious votes could be generated without any form of validation. NCC’s IT department subsequently expressed their surprise that this voting method had been used as they were aware of its serious shortcomings and they had assumed it was redundant.
The Parish Council contacted NCC to object to the way this consultation was carried out. Following several letters and phone calls, Coun. Glen Sanderson, (under whose name the online vote was promoted), and Coun. Renner-Thompson met with the Parish Council where they were asked for an explanation. It was pointed out that the online vote was completely illegitimate both because it had not been notified to all Bamburgh residents or the Parish Council and that, if such a vote were to be taken, a postal vote was needed to allow residents without internet access to vote. Coun. Sanderson gave a promise that the money allocated for this project would be kept for Bamburgh road improvements. To date, despite several requests, there has been no explanation or justification for NCC’s actions given but in July 2018 the Parish Council received a letter from NCC in which the online vote was used to claim there was no mandate for the scheme to go ahead and only a double yellow line scheme would be implemented. It would appear that the £ 200,000 promised for Bamburgh road improvements will be used elsewhere.
Coun. Renner-Thompson was quoted as saying, “It’s been difficult for some of the members of the Streetscape planning group to have the plans changed at the final hurdle “. What has been difficult for all the members of the Parish Council Streetscape planning group was the way in which this scheme came to an end in such an unpleasant and undemocratic way.
The streetscape scheme and any further discussions with Northumberland County Council have now been closed. If you would like to respond
please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
Bamburgh Parish Council