So, despite having each been invited individually, the councillors chose to reply on 16 November with one voice as “the City Council’s Green Group of Councillors” by way of Pete West:
“Thank you for your email about your initiative to apply for Village Green status for the northern section of the Level, and for your invitation for ourselves and Green councillors representing nearby wards to support this.
We share residents concerns over the previous 2009 consultation and informed officers of these views. Specifically in August 2010 we told them that the consultation outcome in our view did not provide a mandate to develop in the northern part of the Level. We suggested that if they felt that the outcome did suggest a preference for that they should prepare firm proposals with real options and re-consult.
Whilst the strongly held view at many meetings is that there should not be a development in the northern area we are aware that certainly some residents are attracted by the increased space that this would allow for children’s facilities in the southern area. In fact it is likely that
many of those who responded ‘yes’ to moving the skatepark in 2009 did so for those reasons. They may have thought less about where the skatepark was moving to.
For the HLF bid to be successful the council must demonstrate strong community support for their proposals – support which is clearly not there at the moment. We would wish to focus our efforts over the next few months in helping the community come together in support of a single vision. We feel that the planned workshops over the next few weeks are an opportunity to help achieve this and we will be attending to monitor the discussions. We were particularly pleased to see the convergence of views expressed at the FotL meeting last week between group members and the skaters over a preference for the skatepark remaining in the current location. We hope that further dialogue will consolidate a common view.
We are currently discussing with FotL, Triangle and the Skateparks Association, councillors facilitating a special session at a Friends of the Level meeting in the near future. The outline idea is that there would be opportunity for presentations from the project team and principal groups, then written questions and verbal follow ups. Our hope is that a tightly controlled formal session like this will give opportunity for a wider spread of voices to be heard and for a greater mutual understanding to be achieved.
Councillors have also arranged a meeting with officers next week, where we will be taking a briefing and raise all the concerns that different groups have expressed about the process and direction of the project.
We are pleased to hear of your community campaign to see The Level designated a ‘Town Green’. We feel that it would not be helpful for this campaign to be associated with a particular political party – it would be best that it remains politically neutral so that the ruling
Conservative administration who’s decision this would be do not feel pressurised into making a politically motivated decision which may not be as you would like it to be. We would strongly urge that you keep it a community campaign as this is most likely to achieve the best outcome for the community.
It is also worth bearing in mind that should the council decide to pursue a development in the northern area it is highly likely that a planning application would be necessary. This would then be decided by councillors on the planning committee. The protocol for members demands that ‘Planning Committee members should retain a neutral position on planning applications prior to determination at the Committee and, in order to retain the impression of being free from bias should avoid making public statements as to their support of, or opposition to, any application’. Should a member not follow this advice there is a strong
possibility that they would not be allowed to sit on the committee. This could leave the local community without a local voice in the decision making process. This is clearly a situation that, for everybody’s benefit, we need to avoid.
Thank you again for contacting us about this campaign we would be grateful if you could keep us posted on its progress. We would be more than willing to meet with you to discuss it should you wish or to attend any public meetings that you may organise to inform the general public about the proposal.”