I went to the hastily convened Splash Park meeting this evening. Anna Firth was wondering if anyone would turn up. I was wondering if she might be lynched. This afternoon’s News Shopper report had stirred passions in an unhelpful way. Just what the meeting was not designed to do, but as I’ve said before, the News Shopper has become a bit of a rag, good for little more than copying what they read on the web. In depth reporting? Don’t make me laugh!
Before the meeting started I had a nice chat with councillor Peter Reader. I was trying to think what I might have last said about him. I remembered he was a decent enough Planning Committee chairman but beyond that my mind was a blank. But he was very pleasant and said he wanted to keep the Splash Park open. He convinced me with a comment it would be undiplomatic to repeat here.
Including Anna, three councillors and the leading lights of the Save Committee there were just over 20 people there freezing on the pavement until twenty past eight.
Anna Firth put her case very well. One lady said to me afterwards that although she was Labour through and through she believed Anna when she said she really did want to save the park. There were raised voices at times but some progress was made.
I think Anna convinced most people that she would stick around whatever happened tomorrow. I extracted that promise from her a few days ago although a number of people have said her website says, or at least implies, that her interest is conditional upon votes.
When I wrote that horribly long blog yesterday morning I took advice from three sources and walked the tightrope very carefully, refining the words over several hours. Anna’s website gets a couple of minutes attention each day. It probably could be improved if time permitted.
Alex Sawyer the responsible cabinet member took a leading role and put his foot in it a couple of times. It didn’t take a lot for hostility to rise to the surface but he put on a pretty good show overall. He convinced me that he really does want to see the Splash Park continue, either that or he relishes the prospect of being pilloried here for the rest of his life - or more likely mine.
The long awaited technical report has been with the council for a couple of weeks but Alex Sawyer has not seen it yet. Deputy Director Toni Ainge is charged with writing a long and comprehensive covering note.
The man who used to do the pool maintenance was on hand - he's retired now - and the message coming from him is that the water quality is poor because no one does his job any more. It included not only thorough pipe cleaning, late into the night if necessary, but also hauling out those who paddled in unsuitable attire. He also said that he kept daily records of water quality over ten years. Alex Sawyer maintains that everything before 2014 can’t be found. Maybe they should put their heads together. I think they probably will.
There has been a dispute over who came up with the latest plan to rescue the pool first. The businessman who is behind that scheme stepped in to rescue Anna from some of the criticism from which it may be possible to draw conclusions.
A conclusion I came to is that the suggestion that the council might move the southern playground across the road and build houses is without foundation. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, the council has never said any such thing but opposition voices have expressed that fear and it has been repeated here. There are sure to be councillors who would like to see that happen but it has never been official policy. The council must know it would be a breach of trust for which they would never be forgiven.
So the expectation now is that Alex will get his long awaited report within the next two or three weeks, and that all the interested parties will get together by the end of June to thrash out what they need to do. Either Mrs. Firth or Anna Firth MP will be there.
There is no way the Park will open this year. Alex Sawyer probably hasn’t got the money and the retired maintenance man said it takes three months to do a thorough overhaul. So too late now.
I was tempted to include the words ‘Knock their bloody heads together’ when writing yesterday’s blog but didn’t as I was anxious not to upset anyone too much. However I think it is fair to say that this evening may have achieved the goal I was hoping for. Nothing to do with me, I just listened while I froze.