I read with despair the hyperbole sent in by Mdms Rodwell and Wilding (WSCT August 16) re the provision of a youth facility in Billingshurst. Once one has read though the imbroglio of misinformation and their usual rant at the community partnership nowhere do they actually mention the losers or beneficiaries of this project, namely the young people of our community who have no facility offering them the provisions that the EYE project envisages.
It is disingenuous, to say the least, to suggest to your readers that alternative locations have not been explored or to suggest that the project team is unwilling to discuss the detail of a lease agreement with the land owner (Billingshurst Parish Council) or the legal entity and any part that the council may want to play in that legal entity. And it was cynical, to say the least, to table a blocking motion at the July parish meeting since the proposition before council allowed for such procedures to be addressed. The project team have always recognised this necessity for joint agreement to both the resulting legal entity and the lease agreement.
This potential project, to provide a general and overarching facility for the youth of Billingshurst was originally a council project and as they considered that it was beyond their capability to undertake they asked the partnership to tackle it for them. We did so and set up a multi-agency team to manage the project. This team included a representative of the parish council and all minutes and other documents have been shared with them at every stage of the project work. This included a sub group to consider what type of legal entity would be the optimum for the project. This committee also had council representation on it.
So at every stage, and in all detail, the parish council know full well what the issues are and the proposed solutions including any part in which the council may wish to partake, or not as the case may be.
Because the majority of our young people attend the Weald School it was sensible for the project team to engage with them, and the school in general, to make sure that both had a major stake in the planning and that the student voice was heard. What we heard very succinctly from the students was ‘Not on campus but nearby’! Hence taking into consideration with regard to location, ease of access, safety, availability of transport, after school and weekend use as well as a whole raft of other issues, the optimum site is that of Station Road. This is not to say that other locations (disused factory sites for example) could not be used, but it is a question of the degree of use compared with the cost effectiveness of provision.
Overall the Station Road Gardens site meets all the reviewed criteria and the young people that we consulted (c1,500) tell us that this is their preferred location. Furthermore, with some vision, one can see that on that site there would be integration into the design of the Station Road Gardens project allowing, amongst other considerations, the provision of a patio area and occasional café as well as adjacent toilet facilities. But perhaps a more succinct outcome would be the very young and the elderly, using the gardens, able to see at first hand just how brilliant the majority of our young people are when called on to help with public events and so on.
In writing I have avoided challenging many of the misleading statements made; the most glaring being that the ‘partnership’s finances are unregulated’ which suggests a lack of acumen regarding company law, audited accounts or AGMs (the partnership is a Limited Company). Plus the overarching consideration of ‘at no cost to precept’ which we have so far achieved and if planning gain funds are available then why not use them? If we don’t others will including the parish council and quite rightly so.
Perhaps the bottom line should be that if your previous contributors do not think so much of the community partnership there is one gracious lady that does hence our MBE for Community Service recently awarded to us by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
These are my own thoughts but for the record I am: director, Billingshurst Community Partnership, and vice-chair, governors, Weald School
Marringdean Road, Billingshurst