Thursday, 20 October 2011

Tenbury Wells in The Big Lottery Fund's 'Village SOS' Magazine

A page from the magazine - Tenbury is first in a list
of the Big Lottery Fund's enterprising communities.

The campaign by Tenbury Futures and 100's of local community members to sustainably develop the town's cattle market site has been picked up by the Big Lottery Fund's 'Village SOS' magazine.

The magazine is the latest output from the Village SOS stable and follows on from the BBC TV programme of the same name hosted by Sarah Beeney. The magazine 'celebrates enterprising communities' and 'the people making a real difference to the places where they live'. Additionally, the magazine is part of a wider campaign by the Big Lottery Fund's Village SOS organisation and is joined by a national roadshow and £5 million of competition funding to help community-led enterprises get off the ground, revive their areas, create new jobs and improve the quality of life of local people.

The Big Lottery Fund's campaign group were particularly interested in Tenbury Futures' proactive 'PLAN B' document - which promotes sensible and sustainable development of the town's cattle market site (which we discussed on this blog in an earlier post). 

The roadshow comes to Worcester on Dec 2nd and will offer supporting discussions and talks as well as advice on developing and evolving community projects.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Tenbury Council Mystery U-Turn on Tesco Plans.

The confusion about Tenbury Town Council's decision-making regards Tesco became more compounded as of monday night's extraordinary meeting. As we recall, they rejected the Tesco plan recently, they then did a re-run and supported it - the validity of both meetings and results was clearly called into question after that so a third meeting was called. What was different about this third meet though was that Tesco PR rep Sophie and their planning representative from Cardiff had been drafted-in to help try to sweet-talk wavering Clrs regarding the way they'd vote.

Who invited Tesco's PR spin team?
What wasn't clear (and we suspect that there are those that would just say that this is 'sour grapes' on our part) was how Tesco reps came to be in the Town Council meeting in the first place. One assumes that they were 'invited' and if so then by whom? It could of course be one of the Councillors who did this but we stand to be corrected if anyone knows more specifics.

You're either an audience member or you're not surely?
There were 3x 5 min talking slots from 'the audience' allowed as a standard. These individuals could address the Clrs and Lady Mayor to put across their position on the Tesco plan. Two locals spoke about their grave concerns related to the plan. Subjects such as severe traffic congestion, undercutting of town high street shops and Tesco's unique kind of 'benefit' [read loss of jobs and highstreet trade] to other towns were covered. Then came the third audience member to talk - but this wasn't another local airing concerns or support - instead they were two fully paid-up Tesco employees. While the points they tried to raise were garbled at best they were able to act as both 'audience' as well as being the applicant and proposer of the planning application.

The audience must remain quiet.
After these 15 minutes of 'audience' pointers and concerns were read out we [inc the Tesco representatives] were told in no uncertain terms that we should 'remain quiet'. From here on there would be a debate between councilors, we were also told that we would be ejected from the chamber should we talk or interrupt the debate. As such the audience respected this ask and kept quiet while the debate was underway.

Were facts used to support debate or just supposition?
There then followed the expected debate between Clrs. For a while there seemed to be uncertainty as pro Tesco Clrs argued with Clrs who were airing various concerns about the plan still. To confuse the matter further there were various points raised by pro Tesco Clrs that were presented as 'fact' to the chamber when they were plainly not presented accurately. One example being that Ludlow was put across as being the 'same or similar' to Tenbury. In reality, Ludlow is very different from Tenbury though. Take for example the fact that Tenbury's population is about 3,500, that's less people that Ludlow's Council Estate of about 4000 people alone. Ludlow has a population of around 10,000 in total - that's nearly 3 times that of Tenbury. Ludlow has cleverly marketed itself in tune with the growing national interest in slow and locally produced foods - Tenbury hasn't that we're aware of. Ludlow has a the remains of a castle that administered the whole of Wales for 200 years - Tenbury hasn't. Ludlow has a vibrant cattle market which for many years has brought money and individuals into the town - Tenbury no longer has an cattle market in town. Ludlow's tourism industry has been cultured over many years and runs on a very different scale and with a larger array of assets to that of Tenbury's. 

In short, you can't compare like for like - the two towns are substantially different. Although Ludlow has had recent news reports about the polarisation of trade to the superstore end of town it is never the less more resilient because of this broader mix of references at it's disposal. Those who are pro Tesco of course claim this resilience is down to a Tesco store in town but the many additional benefits the town has would seem to suggest otherwise.

Commendations to Clrs who aired their concerns.
Commendations do have to be given though to those local Councillors who raised concerns about the plan - both in terms of potential traffic congestion, ill thought-through superstore parking arrangements and the fact that the Clrs possibly weren't paying full attention to the many concerns raised by locals that had been passed to them to consider.

All pigs are equal but some are more equal than others.
What many in the audience couldn't square though was that during this debate some members of the audience were allowed their say and a right to reply when others who were on the public speaker list weren't. Pro Tesco Clrs asked if they could talk to the applicant as audience members and ask them further questions. The same facility to further detail and clarifiy wasn't extended to the rest of the audience or speakers though - many of whom who would have been able to clarify some of the claims put across as 'fact' in support of the Tesco application. 

So was the meeting conducted fairly?
In the event, Tesco representatives then had the chance to both clarify and even expand upon points raised by mainly pro Tesco Clrs. No one else had the same facility offered. Was it conducted fairly? You'll have to draw your own conclusions.